Twenty-six years after women were first inducted into the Indian Army as Short Service Commission officers in 1993, the Army has taken the first tentative steps to induct them into other ranks as well, beginning with the Military Police.
The first major step towards giving permanency to the position of women officers in the Army came in 2008 when it was decided that those serving in the Judge Advocate General department and Army Education Corps would be offered Permanent Commission. While the two branches hardly have any troops to command and are mostly administrative appointments, the move meant women could now rise above the rank of Lt Colonel.
Women officers have been in active service in supporting arms such as Signals and Engineers, and services such as Army Ordnance Corps, but not in combat arms such as the Infantry and Armoured Corps and the Regiment of Artillery.
In his Independence Day speech last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced Permanent Commission for women in all branches of the Army.
However, it was clarified later that women officers would be offered Permanent Commission in staff appointments only. This meant that it would be a while before a woman officer could be seen commanding an Engineer or Signals Regiment or an ASC Battalion.
Army officers say it is inevitable that more roles will be opened up for women in the rank of soldiers. They could be inducted as technicians, clerks, drivers etc. However, they agree that a position in combat arms is unlikely to be offered to women officers or soldiers anytime soon. (left) the women had to be at least 152 cm in height to qualify