The Indian Navy recently deployed four women officers (two each) on board its warships — aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya and tanker INS Shakti — for the first time since 1998 (23 years ago) when lady officers were posted on navy vessels but the practice was discontinued soon due to logistical issues. Of the four officers, two are for logistics, one is an air traffic controller and one medical officer. The doctor has been deployed on INS Shakti.
With changing times, the navy has started building separate cabins and toilets on warships to make them ready for all genders.
The Navy has also deployed Lieutenant Navjot Kaur as a logistics officer at INS Kardip, a forward operating naval base under the joint-services Andaman and Nicobar Command located on Kamorta Island. The 27-year-old is the first woman to be posted in the middle of the Indian Ocean. In 2019, the maritime force deployed Lt Commander Karabi Gogoi as the Navy’s first defence attache abroad (in Moscow).
Women also broke the glass ceiling in the air force when three pilots from the first women batch of 2015 — Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh — qualified for day-time combat missions on a fighter aircraft in 2019. Ft Lt Kanth, who debuted at the R-Day parade this year, is currently flying MiG-21 Bison and deployed in a forward airbase in Rajasthan.
Following the Navy and the IAF, the Army is also planning to enroll women pilots in the combat flying role. Army chief General M M Naravane recently said that women officers would be deployed for combat roles in the flying branch of the Army Aviation Corps as early as next year. Women officers would undergo pilot training in the next course beginning July, and after a year of training, they would be serving in front-line operational units for flying duties, he said.
Three IAF officers — Ft Lts Bhawana Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh — who have qualified for day-time combat missions on a fighter aircraft
From last year itself, the Army started deploying women soldiers for patrolling in Kashmir. The Army moved in two sections of women soldiers of the Assam Rifles last May. The women soldiers deployed in north Kashmir near the LoC have been assigned duties like security duties, sentry, manning check posts, frisking and guard duty. The Army has also kick-started the process to grant permanent commission to eligible women officers after the defence ministry approved the proposal.
Women soldiers deployed in a forward area for patrolling in Kashmir
Currently, the Navy has the maximum percentage of women in its workforce among the three services at 6.5%, as the percentage in the IAF (excluding those serving in the medical and dental wings) and the Army is 1.08 and 0.56, respectively. However, women’s strength is very less as compared to men in the military.
According to the defence ministry’s records, 6,807 women (including doctors and nurses) are employed in the Army while 12.1 lakh men are serving the force. The number of women in the Navy is 704 while the men’s strength is 10,108. The number of women and men in the IAF is 1,607 and 1,46,727, respectively.