Women in Indian Army set to climb career ladder with command roles for 108 officers.

Women officers in the Indian Army are set to climb the career ladder with the force conducting a special selection board to promote 108 of them to the rank of select-grade colonel for the first time in a move aimed at bringing about gender parity, offering them command assignments in select branches, and giving them new hard-earned identities, officials familiar with the development said on Thursday.

As many as 244 women officers in the rank of lieutenant colonel are being considered by the board for the 108 vacancies, said one of the officials cited above asking not to be named. The selection process began on January 9 and will culminate on January 22. As on Thursday, 66 women officers have been cleared for promotion to colonel, and the remaining vacancies will be filled by the weekend, said a second official, who also asked not to be named.

Among the women officers already approved for the next rank is Lieutenant Colonel Rishma Sarin, wife of a highly decorated fallen soldier, Major Mohit Sharma of 1 Para (Special Forces). Sharma was posthumously awarded the country’s highest peace-time gallantry award, the Ashoka Chakra, for his heroism during a counter-terror operation in Kashmir in 2009. Before that, the Special Forces officer had led a string of operations in Kashmir, including one that involved infiltrating the ranks of a terrorist outfit and killing some of its top operators.

Select-grade means the officers are selected for promotion based on merit, rather than on the basis of time spent in service.

The women officers being assessed by the selection board are from the 1992 to 2006 batch and were commissioned in various arms and services including Engineers, Signals, Army Air Defence, Intelligence Corps, Army Service Corps, Army Ordnance Corps, and Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, said the first official. Also, 60 of the women officers being considered for promotion have been called as observers for the selection board to ensure fairness and to clarify their apprehensions if any, the official said.

To be sure, women doctors in the armed forces have risen to the three-star rank (lieutenant general and equivalent in the other two services). Also, six women officers were granted the time-scale rank of colonel by the army last year after completing 26 years of service. These officers are also being considered by the selection board for promotion to the select-grade rank to ensure career progression, HT has learnt.

The 108 women officers who are declared fit will be eligible to hold command assignments, and the first set of such postings will be issued by January-end. “To provide equal opportunities to women, the army has granted Permanent Commission (PC) to women officers on a par with their male counterparts. With this, women officers can aspire to achieve greater glory and shoulder higher ranks and responsibility,” the first official added. Women officers who have been granted PC are undergoing special training courses and have also been given challenging assignments to empower them for higher leadership roles, the officials said.

Last week, Army chief General Manoj Pande said the commissioning of women officers in the regiment of artillery was on the cards. He said empowerment of women was a focus area in which the army had made good progress.

In early January, the army for the first time deployed a woman officer, Captain Shiva Chouhan, at Siachen, the world’s highest and coldest battleground. It also army deployed its largest contingent of 27 women peacekeepers in Sudan’s disputed region of Abyei, where they will provide relief and assistance to women and children, and perform security-related tasks in a challenging mission as part of the United Nations Interim Security Force (UNISFA).

To be sure, tanks and combat positions in infantry are still no-go zones for women.

Source- Hindustan Times.

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