Top News

Saturday, Jul 25, 2020 12:45 [IST]

Last Update: Saturday, Jul 25, 2020 07:06 [IST]

Too little, too late?

In a move definitely towards greater empowerment of women in the country, the Defence Ministry on Thursday issued a formal sanction letter for granting Permanent Commission (PC), opening doors for women in a male-dominated force. This has come five months after the Supreme Court granted permanent commission to women Army officers, the Ministry of Defence has issued the formal Government Sanction Letter (GSL) to Short Service Commissioned (SSC) women officers in all 10 streams of the Army.
The order will pave the way for “empowering women officers to shoulder larger roles in the organisation,” an army spokesperson said. A selection board will assemble soon to pick women for PC. The order specifies grant of PC to SSC women officers in 10 streams - Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), and Intelligence Corps in addition to the existing streams of Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC). “In anticipation, the Army Headquarters had set in motion a series of preparatory actions for conduct of the Permanent Commission Selection Board for affected women officers,” the army said in statement. The board will be scheduled as soon as the SSC women officers exercise their option and complete the requisite documentation. The army is committed to provide equal opportunities to all personnel including women officers to serve the country, the statement added.
The SC on February 17 this year had ruled that SSC women officers in the army are entitled to PC and they have to be considered irrespective of their service length. The policy of the Centre in this regard to restrict PC to SSC women officers with less than 14 years of service was held to be violative of the Right to Equality by the apex court. It also held that there cannot be an absolute bar on women being considered for command appointments. The judgement was delivered on a petition by the defence ministry challenging a 2010 judgment of the Delhi high court which had ruled that SSC women officers in the army and air force should be granted PC at par with male SSC officers.
But its not celebration times yet. Critics have said that the GSL, for which the Army had sought six additional months in the Supreme Court citing Covid-19 pandemic, is a “delayed response” that came after the Army initiated four major policy changes. This includes the central government’s move to make the Battle Physical Efficiency Test (BPET) mandatory for all women officers, including those commissioned before 2009 and above 35 years of age, who were earlier exempt from it. The BPET is a series of tests meant to test the physical fitness of an officer or a jawan to perform military tasks.
The grant of permanent commission is dependent on the annual confidential report (ACR) in the first 10 years of service, a ‘Shape 1’ medical category and discipline and vigilance clearance. But out of the 620 women officers awaiting a board, 100 women with downgraded medical categories have been detailed for the JC course. With lifestyle diseases common after the age of 45, this is seen as a harassment for them.
Also, women officers have been asked to go for another ‘adequately exercised (AE) tenure’, despite many of them having completed it in their years of service. Most women officers are late by 16 years for permanent commission. If they are to do that tenure now, they will hardly be left with any residual service for command appointments before these women officers retire.
Is the GSL is too little, too late?

Sikkim at a Glance

  • Area: 7096 Sq Kms
  • Capital: Gangtok
  • Altitude: 5,840 ft
  • Population: 6.10 Lakhs
  • Topography: Hilly terrain elevation from 600 to over 28,509 ft above sea level
  • Climate:
  • Summer: Min- 13°C - Max 21°C
  • Winter: Min- 0.48°C - Max 13°C
  • Rainfall: 325 cms per annum
  • Language Spoken: Nepali, Bhutia, Lepcha, Tibetan, English, Hindi