New Delhi : Determined to break the gender barrier in the armed forces, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Tuesday mooted the idea of raising an all women battalion and stationing of women on warships besides opening the doors of the National Defence Academy and Sainik schools for them.
However, Parrikar made it clear that the “affirmative action” towards empowerment of women will be done gradually without compromising main task of armed forces which is national security.
“There is a thinking that soldiers will not listen to a Commanding Officer who is a lady because they are not trained to do that. I don’t agree with this as the only restriction today is infrastructure,” -Manohar Parrikar/ Defence Minister
He said the government has been successful in breaking the “psychological barrier” with the induction of women as female fighter pilots. The Defence Minister, credited with the path-breaking move of allowing IAF women pilots in combat role, said that even though India is a country of Jhansi ki Rani and Durga, women have been made to stay away due to various reasons. “When I became the Defence Minister, I thought that we need to do a strategic move,” he said noting that normally armed forces are male dominated. If the Army and the Navy are opened up for combat roles for women, India will join the small club of countries in the world, including US, Israel, to have such a system.
”There is a thinking that soldiers will not listen to a Commanding Officer who is a lady because they are not trained to do that. I don’t agree with this as the only restriction today is infrastructure,” he said speaking at a seminar organised by FICCI FLO, the women wing of the industry chamber. “In combat roles also there can be women. Why not have a complete women team, battalion of women. So the question of women officers leading a men’s team, if there is question of initial resistance to it, can also be taken care of,” he said.
Parrikar said that sometime in future, he will sit with the chiefs of all forces. “I don’t understand why we can’t place women on ships. At this stage I will not support a submarine operation because submarines are designed for unigender or one area for staff. There are no separate areas for women. “But ships can be modified and new ships can be designed to have facilities for women,” he said adding that there is also a question of taking women officers through NDA. He said there are demands from across the country for Sainik schools to have girl students. “This cannot be done in dis-joined manner otherwise girls will get into Sainik schools but they will not get entry, all this aspects are being looked into,” he said. Ruing that it took nearly four months for the file on induction of women in combat role to reach him despite his prodding, Parrikar said, “I support women rights, empowerment but I believe changes have to be done in a gradual manner because if you don’t do that there will be problems,” he said.