It Is The Height Of Hypocrisy, That At One Hand The Government Is Hell Bent To Pass The Women Reservation Bill,


It is the women of the country who have been in the news for the first few days in the month of March. What started with the passing of one of the most contentious bill (women reservation) in the Rajya Sabha, ended up with another equally controversial, yet favourable judgment passed by the high court, with respect to women officers. The court granted permanent commission to interested women officers of the forces serving under the short service commission. As was expected, the government has been silent so far on the issue and again as expected the top brass of the Army and the Air Force have reacted against the high court’s stance. The high court passed this judgment with a view that few women officers who were assured eligibility for a permanent commission during the time of recruitment were denied of the same later. In fact, the denial was only meted out to them while their male counterparts were moved from the short service commission to permanent commission. The court was of the view that this act had been discriminatory, and thus passed an order stating that the officers, who joined before 2006, including those who have retired, should be awarded full permanent commission with complete financial and other benefits in retrospect.

Going by sheer merit of the judgment, it can be said that it is a landmark moment! And of whatever I have read so far, most of the editorial stance by most media houses has been against the judgment. So much so, the top brass of the Army and Air Force are contemplating to contest the judgment in the apex court. Their biggest concern has been with respect to the high court’s order to take back the retired women officers and accommodate them. As per the top brass, there aren’t any vacancies at the senior positions to accommodate these women officers who retired from Short Service Commission. There have also been reports stating that for people who have been against this judgment feel that there exists occupational hazard in forces, and thus women should not be given permanent commission. In fact all these arguments are profound in themselves, but then my question is that even after knowing all this, why such an assurance was given to accommodate women officers for permanent commission, in the first place? And if the assurance was given, then why such a differential treatment was meted out to them? And finally, why is the government silent now?

And frankly, I do not subscribe to logic of occupational hazards, as women officers in India still serve in the noncombat areas and as far as any other hazards are concerned they are equally associated with other professions as well. Women officers in India mostly serve engineering, ordnance, signals, intelligence, education, law, air traffic control, among others. And if today, women are equal opportunity partners in all other fields, why should they be denied the same in services. For that matter even, BSF, CRPF, ITBP, CISF, all of them have their special Mahila battalions, taking care of frontline duties in the border region. What more, a contingent of 120 CRPF women has been in Liberia for quite sometime taking care of law and order situation in the civil war torn nation.

As such these days, not many youngsters are applying to any of the forces. And given the fact that there is a deficit of officers in all the three forces, there is no justification that why an able, meritorious women officer, who is willing to serve the nation, should be robbed of such opportunities? In fact, it is so very unfortunate that we as a nation are still debating the fact whether we should permit women officers’ permanent commission or not, whereas other nations have moved far ahead and have started involving women officers in active combat areas. In fact, women are recruited in the forces all across the world but there are only a handful of nations like New Zealand, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Israel, Sweden and Switzerland who permit complete active combat roles for women officers! Few other nations, like the United Kingdom might not involve women in active combat, but then they do involve them in certain combat arms positions. The United States for that matter allows women in most combat flying positions.

What has been the most unfortunate bit in this entire episode is government’s sustained silence over the issue, knowing the fact that it itself has been at fault. It is the height of hypocrisy that at one hand they are hell bent to pass the Women Reservation Bill and on the other, violating their rights blatantly!

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