The Indian Navy has a detailed and progressive roadmap to induct more women into the force and is engaged in strengthening women-friendly infrastructure onboard aircraft carriers and modern ships, Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla said in Kochi Tuesday at an annual press conference on the eve of Navy Day. He said there are certain logistical issues to be taken care of so that the project does not end up a damp squib.
“We were the first service to induct women as officers in the combat and combat support arms back in July 1992. They were inducted into education, law and logistics branches. Progressively, we have started opening up other branches and specialisations to them and the latest one was the pilots in the maritime reconnaissance stream,” Chawla, the commander-in-chief of the Southern Naval Command, said.
The vice admiral continued, “The only issue we have had in the combat branch onboard ships, submarines and the aircraft that go to sea…are certain requirements of ergonomics. This is the same problem that Army is also facing in the combat and infantry arms where you come directly in contact with the enemy. So there are certain logistic issues which are gradually being sorted out. For example, on ships, we need separate accommodation and toilets for ladies which is happening on all modern ships.”
“There is a roadmap and it will be implemented. We don’t want to hurry anything so that it becomes a false start. It should be done in a sustainable and progressive manner,” he added.
His comments come just days after 24-year-old sub-lieutenant Shivangi, hailing from Muzaffarpur district in Bihar, broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman in the country to be inducted as a pilot in the Navy. She will be flying the Dornier maritime reconaissance aircraft.
Modern ships of the Navy including the indigenous aircraft carrier being currently built at the Cochin Shipyard (CSL) are being incorporated with women-friendly facilities wherein a certain number of bunks and areas are earmarked with certain toilet facilities, the vice admiral said.
He also stressed the need to set up a detailed shore support facility when women get commissioned to go to sea for long periods of time.
“The age at which women who get commissioned to go to sea would roughly be between 18 and 32-33 almost continuously before they are shored for any length of time. That’s also the time they get married and have children. So these are the issues to check,” he said.
Responding to a question on the progress of the construction of the first indigenous aircraft carrier at CSL, the Southern Naval Command chief said the force has aimed at the year 2021 for the commissioning of the carrier. It is the largest warship to be built in an Indian yard and will initially operate MiG-29k fighter planes.
“Any shipbuilding project is a very complex endeavour and even globally, if you look at such ships, there have been delays in terms of design, financing and availability of equipment..the delays are behind us and we have signed the final phase 3 contract with CSL. The first target are the basin trials which we should be able to complete by the middle of next year. We are on a good track,” he said.