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Creating History, 2 Women Officers To Be Posted On Indian Navy Warship

Creating history in the Indian Navy, Sub Lieutenant Kumudini Tyagi and Sub Lieutenant Riti Singh will be the first women officers who will be deployed on Navy warships as part of the ship’s crew. They are currently training to operate a host of sensors onboard Navy multi-role helicopters, including sonar consoles and Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) payloads. It is expected that the two officers will eventually fly on the Navy’s new MH-60 R helicopters, which are considered the most advanced multi- purpose helicopters with the latest technology to detect enemy ships and submarines which can be engaged using missiles and torpedoes.

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This game changing news comes on a day when it has emerged that the Indian Air Force (IAF) has shortlisted a woman fighter pilot to operate in its fleet of Rafale fighter jets. We should appreciate and respect the fact that the Indian Air Force inducts women in all roles, including combat and support roles, giving them a fair chance. As of September 2020, there were 1,875 female officers serving in the IAF, including 10 pilots and 18 navigators. In 2016, Flight Lieutenant Bhawanna Kanth, Flight Lieutenant Avani Chaturvedi, and Flight Lieutenant Mohana Singh became India’s first women fighter pilots.

Women have always been regarded differently in the aspect of their involvement in the combat role in the Indian army. Women had a role in the Indian army since 1888 when the “Indian Military Nursing Service” was formed during the British Raj. The British Indian nurses served during the World Wars as well. A notable achievement for women during India’s freedom struggle was the women’s regiment under Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose ‘s Indian National Army called the Rani of Jhansi Regiment was formed, which was one of that kind during World War II.This lack of involvement of women has continued till recently, though considerable changes have taken place. 

Since 1992, women were first inducted into various branches of Indian Army only in short service commission. In 2008, women were first inducted as permanent commissioned officers. However, women are not yet allowed as combatants in the Parachute Regiment of Indian Army or other specialist forces, but they can join as paratroopers wings of their respective arms like para EME, para signals, para ASC, etc, as of 2020. They are not allowed to serve in combat units such as Infantry, Mechanised infantry, Armoured corps  and Artillery, as of 2020. It was on 17 February 2020,  that the role of women in the Indian army changed forever. The Supreme Court of India said that women officers in Indian Army can get command positions at par with male officers. The court said that the government’s arguments against it were discriminatory, disturbing and based on stereotype.

These changes are indeed small yet huge steps towards the utopian world that all women dream of. But while we should dream for a better future, we have to analyse the discomforts that women often face in the frontline. These include poor sanitation facilities, sexual harassment and low acceptance being a few. So, while we take steps toward the involvement of women, we must understand the difficulties they face and take the necessary measures so that they can fulfil their duties with satisfaction. We must strive to build a society, a nation where women can walk with their heads held high.

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