Security Issues

Women will be given command positions in the Indian Army

As many as 108 female Army officers are set to be promoted to the rank of Colonel (selection grade), allowing them to command units and troops in their respective arms and services for the first time.

What does it mean to command a unit?

  • Once promoted to Colonel, an officer is eligible to command troops directly in the Army, demonstrating the officer’s leadership abilities.
  • It is a highly sought-after position because no other rank, including Brigadier and Major General, allows an officer to interact directly with troops on the ground.
  • Women officers will command units in many branches of the Army, including Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, EMEs, Army Ordnance Corps, and Intelligence Corps.

Women in commands: Significance

  • Leadership opportunity: Despite working at the grassroots level as junior officers, women officers have previously been denied the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership abilities because they were not eligible to command a unit.
  • Gender parity: Most importantly, it equalises female officers with male counterparts.
  • Higher ranks: Previous promotions were staff appointments, which are more administrative in nature than command appointments, in which an officer commands troops on the ground.
  • Benefits after a permanent commission: Women officers with a longer career in the Army will be considered for promotions, including to the rank of Colonel and higher.

Why were their Colonel promotions so late in coming?

  • Only after 16 to 18 years of service, an officer in the Army is promoted to the rank of Colonel, based on criteria such as annual confidential reports and various courses.
  • Women officers who were inducted into the Army as Short Service Commission (SSC) officers in 1992 and later did not have the option of a permanent commission.

The Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the Permanent Commission

  • In 2019, the Army changed its rules to allow SSC women officers who would have otherwise retired after 14 years of service to opt for a permanent commission.
  • However, this was not retroactive and only applied to new batches of female officers joining the Army in 2020.
  • With the landmark Supreme Court decision of February 2020, women officers were granted permanent commission with retroactive effect.
  • This paved the way for their further advancement and promotion in the Army, which has recently opened leadership and higher management courses for women.

How do women continue to face discrimination?

  • Women are still barred from serving in core combat arms such as infantry, mechanised infantry, and armoured corps.
  • The Indian Army does not allow women to fight as foot soldiers in border wars.
  • Much of this opposition stems from previous incidents in which male soldiers were taken as prisoners of war and tortured by the enemy.
  • However, the Army has recently decided to allow women to join the Corps of Artillery, a combat support arm.

What about the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy?

  • Women have been inducted into all branches of the Navy and will soon be eligible for permanent commission.
  • Women officers can command land-based units, and as they advance through the ranks and become eligible for permanent commission, they will be able to command ships and air squadrons.
  • All branches of the IAF are now open to female officers, including the fighter stream and the new weapon systems branch.
  • They will be able to command units in the future if they are granted permanent commissions based on eligibility and vacancies.

How many Indian women serve in the armed forces?

  • The Army, as the largest of the three services, has the most female officers, with 1,705, followed by 1,640 in the IAF and 559 in the Navy.
  • Last year, the government submitted this information to Parliament.
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