The Indian Army’s move to induct women as jawans has drawn support from several quarters including a number of former military officers, even as a few have opined that the process has to be "gradual".
Inducting women jawans a great move, but a gradual process: Army veterans
Lt. Gen. (retd) B K Chopra, former Director General of Armed Forces Medical Services, termed the move as a "humble beginning".
"In modern army, strength is not the only factor that counts. The army has changed over the last 70 years and womenfolk are also not the same now. They could be physiologically different from their male counterparts, but that is a non-issue which can be taken care of with training," he said.
There is no reason why the women cannot be recruited as jawans, when they have proved their mettle in other domains.
Chopra said the Army will require a "change of psyche" before the step is taken, as it is not used to seeing women as jawans.
Currently women are allowed in select areas including in medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings of the Army but combat roles are kept off limit for them due to operational concerns and logistical issues. The Army is also planning to recruit women jawans for a range of activities like computer operators and as clerical staff.
Lt. Gen. (retd) V K Chaturvedi also welcomed the move, saying the Army treats all as equal, but asserted the "organisation (Army) is supreme" and "constraints" of any nature have to be acknowledged.
"It is going to be difficult initially, and the process of induction has to be very gradual to ensure there is no turbulence in the ranks.
"The Army doesn't discriminate, but the organisational need has to be at the top. And, there are physiological and biological constraints, which have to be acknowledged," Chaturvedi said.
He said the process must be spread over "15-20 years" so that there is no "shock value" attached to it.
Chaturvedi emphasised that women have already done well in various other fields of military like engineering, logistics defence and ordnance, and "I definitely see them marching shoulder-to-shoulder with men" in bigger roles too.
"But, the process must be gradual as there are certain regimentation, certain procedures that cannot be tampered with. And, this move, as I gather, would be to take it on a pilot basis in military police," Chaturvedi said.
Women rights activist have also praised the move but some have asserted that this consideration should not come as a "charity".
"The role of Army has grown bigger in ensuring peace in any country. Having woman as jawans is obviously a welcome step towards equating their role with men but the purpose won't be served if they don't get equal positions as men in the Army.
Just inducting them in the fleet won't do. They should be given equal roles in the Army board rooms where policy decisions are taken, says Ranjana Kumari, activist and Director of Centre for Social Research.
Annie Raja of National Federation of Indian Women said, "I welcome this decision to consider women's role in safeguarding the country but this consideration should not come as a charity and women should also be given higher roles in the Army."
"So far we have never had a woman Army Chief, I foresee this development as a pathway to that. Similarly, the training for men and women should be equal and gender should not play any role in the tasks they are given to perform," she said.