Nari Shakti at the Parade
Why in News?
- Watching women lead many of the contingents in the 74th Republic Day parade in New Delhi was encouraging. Their presence was heartening and something for future generations of girls to emulate. While much was made about the induction of women fighter pilots, we need to see how many more have been inducted since then.
Nari Shakti at the parade:
- Nari shakti dominated the parade: Nari Shakti dominated the 74th Republic Day parade as women officers led the marching contingents of the armed forces, CRPF, Akash missile system and Army’s Daredevil team
- First ever women armed police battalion: In a first, the marching contingent of the CRPF, which has the distinction of raising the first-ever women-armed police battalion in the world, had all women personnel this time.
- BSF women on the borders: Also, for the first time, BSF women soldiers in colorful uniforms who have been deployed along the desert border with Pakistan joined the parade as part of the camel contingent.
Light on whether induction of women is mere tokenism?
- Opening up of opportunities for women: Among the best developments of recent times is the opening of opportunities for girls and young women in Sainik schools and the National Defence Academy.
- As more women on the field, less logistical issues: Once they don the uniform and there are many more women on the field, then the logistical issues will become less relevant.
- Promotion for the rank of colonel: The recent news about women being considered in the promotion board for the rank of colonel and subsequently, to command units is tremendously empowering.
- Military remains an excellent example: The military is an excellent place for women to work in and it is the military’s responsibility to not break that faith.
Women in commands: Significance
- Leadership opportunity: Despite working at the grassroots level as junior officers, women officers hitherto did not get an opportunity to prove their leadership skills as they were not eligible to command a unit.
- Gender parity: Most importantly, it grants women officer’s parity with their male counterparts.
- Higher ranks: Earlier promotions were staff appointments which are more administrative in nature and not purely command appointments in which an officer commands troops on ground.
- Benefits after permanent commission: With a longer career in the Army, women officers will be considered for promotions, including to the rank of Colonel and beyond.
How are women still discriminated?
- Women are still not eligible in core combat arms such as Infantry, Mechanised Infantry and Armoured Corps.
- Indian Army is not open to women fighting wars at the borders as foot soldiers.
- Much of this resistance stems from past instances of male soldiers being taken as prisoners of war and tortured by the enemy.
- However, the Army has recently decided to open the Corps of Artillery, a combat support arm, to women.
What more needs to be done?
- Promoting gender equality at the Parade: It is a great idea to have women’s contingents, with the theme of Nari Shakti, at the parade. However, we must refrain from describing this as an opportunity that has been given to them.
- Challenges in achieving gender equality in frontline forces: The slow and steady induction of women in ranks below the officer level in a paramilitary force like the Assam Rifles is a far cry from enabling women to be part of the frontline force, as part of the Kumaon Regiment, for example. The regiment’s war cry may be Kalika mata ki jai, but it stops there.
- The military, just like any other institution, is but a reflection of society and, like the other institutions, it is also subject to reform and change for the advancement of society as a whole.
- We must push for this alongside cheering for Captain Shikha Sharma, the first woman in the Daredevil squad, who so effortlessly displayed her skills at the parade.
- Republic Day parade did well to celebrate Nari Shakti. But the day after R-Day, much more needs to be done on inclusion of women in the force.