New Delhi: This yearâ€™s Republic Day parade will be special for a lot of reasons. First, it will be Prime Minister Narendra Modiâ€™s first R-Day parade since he was sworn-in. Secondly, the guest of honour is US President Barack Obama.
Thirdly, and most importantly, it will the first R-Day parade where the armed forces will have all-women marching contingents, apart from their regular ones.
The Army, Navy and IAF have been scrambling to look for 148 women each – one contingent commander, three platoon commanders and 144 in the marching block – since they still constitute a miniscule minority in the predominantly male environs of the over 13-lakh strong armed forces.
“The orders came from the top since PM Narendra Modi was keen on women empowerment and ‘Naari Shakti’ as the main theme for the parade. Women officers, with proper turnout, drill standards and fit enough for the 10-km march, have been pulled out from different stations across the country,” a source said.
Unlike paramilitary and police forces, the armed forces cannot draw women from other ranks for the parade since they induct them only as officers.
Moreover, though women have been allowed to join the armed forces since the early-1990s, they currently number just about 3,000 of the 59,400 officers.
The Army has around 1,300 women officers, IAF 1,350 and Navy 350.
Women officers till recently could serve just a maximum of 14 years in branches like signals, engineers, aviation, intelligence, ordnance, air traffic controller and air defence due to what were called “operational, practical and cultural problems”.
They can now opt for permanent commission but only in a few wings like legal, naval constructor, accounts and education.