Gunjan Saxena: Reality of Women in Armies

I really like two types of Bollywood movies One- that is based on the story of real-life heroes, For example, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag Second- that raise serious critical issues present in our society or country, For example, Dangal, Article 15, Oh My God I’d like to talk about one such film today in this video which has not yet been released, but will soon be released on Netflix Gunjan Saxena This picture is not only based on the story of a real-life hero, it also throws light on some serious critical issues If I tell you to imagine an Indian Army soldier or an officer of the Indian Air Force, then the picture in your mind will always

They do not fit into the role of protecting the country Talking about the female officers in the armed forces, Very recently in February 2020, the Supreme Court gave permission that female officers can occupy posts in the permanent commission and positions in command It would not have been possible before this But overall, how many female officers are there in Indian Armed Forces, Indian Air Force, and the Indian Navy today? That number is 9,449 female officers So, let us see what the role of women has been in the Indian Armed forces and the armed forces across the world Is there discrimination between the men and the women? And what important role is played by Gunjan Saxena here?

Real Story of Gunjan Saxena

Gunjan Saxena was born into an army family in 1975 Her father- Lt. Colonel Anup Saxena was also a retired army officer Her brother is an army officer as well She graduated from Hans Raj College, then learned the basics of flying and having cleared the SSB exams, and took entry into the Indian Air Force She, along with 25 other women, became India’s first female Indian Air Force Trainee pilots Her first posting was in Udhampur The biggest high point in the story of Gunjan Saxena came during the Kargil War When war broke out in Kashmir’s Kargil district in 1999, then 9 pilots along with Gunjan Saxena were deployed As things began to worsen in Kargil and it escalated into a huge war, then she was asked if she wanted to get out of the danger zone Would she want to get out, considering she is a female officer and she would not want to participate in it? She refused to do so (get out of the danger zone)

And thus, Gunjan Saxena became a part of the Operation Vijay in the Kargil War She was sent on surveillance sorties right at the start Surveillance means keeping a watch on any area Sorties refer to an individual mission that she would have to complete on her own So, she was conducting her surveillance missions at a height of 18,000 feet She later participated in many more missions as well. Surveillance was just one type of mission- There can be other types of missions as well. for example, Supplying food and medical supplies to the soldiers, rescuing injured soldiers

These are the other types of missions that Gunjan Saxena Ji participated in According to the reports of NDTV, Gunjan Saxena and her comrade Shri Vidya Ji completed around 80 Sorties missions In the last stage, Indian Air Force made use of fighter planes in place of small helicopters But by then, Gunjan Saxena and her comrade Shri Vidya Ji and other Indian Air Force pilots had already rescued around 900 injured soldiers and those martyred were either dropped off at hospitals or to their families It is because of women like Gunjan Saxena that today, we can discuss upon what are the roles of females in the armed forces Her story proved that females are also capable of being recruited into the Indian Army and they too can occupy top positions and can fulfill that job and can play that role extremely well

Women in Armies Worldwide

According to the National Geographic, there are 16 such countries where women can be recruited in combat positions in the armed forces Only 16! There are around more than 200 countries in the world today yet this figure (of countries where women can be recruited in combat positions) is less than 20 Norway, Canada and Denmark were among the first countries that allowed this in the 1980s and then gradually, change began to be noticed in countries like China, Germany, and Japan but these changes came very slowly

It is only four years ago in 2016, when the USA gave permission to the women to join their armed forces although they were already granted permission to join Air Force and the Naval Force earlier What is surprising is that women played a very important role in the World Wars For example, in World War 2, women had 3 regiments in Russia So, it is not that women in combat forces were unheard of, but that might be treated as an exceptional case because World war was a time when there was an acute shortage of soldiers

So it might have been that faced with such an acute shortage, some governments had allowed women to occupy combat positions But the question is what is the reason that governments do not allow women to join the armed forces? even though there are acute shortages (of soldiers) faced by a lot of governments Why is it that they neglect and not allow half of the population to join armed forces? I am talking about combat roles here. Women are seen employed in noncombat positions already

Why Are Women Not Allowed?

This issue has raised several questions in all countries. Questions were raised in India too One of them pertains to the fact that allowing women might have an adverse effect on the psychology of armed forces If someday, women are captured as prisoners of war by an enemy country or some terrorists This is somewhat justified. But sometimes, there are some funny questions that are raised regarding this issue Some years ago, the government had said that they were against recruiting women in the armed forces because it would be difficult to do so as per the prevailing social norms Is this a fair enough reason? Unofficially, some people say that there is an inherent fear If the women are given the post of commanders, then the people in the positions subordinate to her might not take her seriously

They might not obey her commands with requisite seriousness Having read such quotes from officers, even the Supreme Court had stated in its ruling in February that they are ashamed On one hand, we talk about saving girls and educating them, but when the time comes to empower them, then we backtrack, putting forth such futile excuses Another argument of the government is that the commitment and sacrifice required at the front lines in combat positions in the army cannot be rendered by women because they have to raise children and run their households and that takes time and that time cannot be provided to the females by the armed forces And they require long holidays for this So, this is why this cannot be done This thought process sounds extremely backwards It is due to this backward mindset that the progress of the female officers in the Indian Army has been observed to be so slow over the years The story of Gunjan Saxena was extremely old It happened in 1999 and we are talking about it in 2020, when the Supreme Court passed a ruling on it

History of Women in Indian Forces

Historically, prior to 1992, women were allowed only in medical roles in the Indian Armed forces After 1992, came the SSC- the Short Service Commission Under SSC, one can remain in the armed forces only for 10 years In 2006, it was increased to 14 years And it was through SSC that Gunjan Saxena and her female comrade officers could come into armed forces and could get recruited into the Indian Air Force A problem cropped up when it was found that according to SSC and government regulations, women could not get pensions because, in order to avail pension, one must serve for at least 20 years

This was not possible for the women because the rules were such that they could only be recruited under SSC This discrimination raised questions again A petition regarding this was filed in 2003 and 2006 that female officers should also be granted permanent commissions In its 2010 ruling, the Delhi High court said that all the female officers in the Army and the Air Force who were being denied the permanent commission just because they are females, should be granted that This judgment was passed in 2010 and Air Force complied with the ruling In October 2015, the Air Force opened up its stream of fighter pilots for women Having been commissioned in July 2018, Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawna and Mohana Singh created history

They became India’s first three female fighter pilots Taking all the armed forces into account today, we would see the highest proportion of female officers in the Indian Air Force It took 9 years for change to come in the Army 9 years later in February 2019, the government finally passed an order to open more streams for women to get permanent commissions But there are some restrictions in that as well This opportunity would only be given to female officers who have not yet completed their 14 years in service, More importantly, female officers would not be given commanding positions Maybe our Defense Ministry is still fixated on the social norms that it would not be right for women to occupy commanding positions This might be the reason why it is yet not allowed in the army even today

Supreme Court Ruling 2020

Let us now turn to the February 2020 ruling of Supreme Court rejected all the objections of the Defense Ministry and accorded equal status to the male and the female officers in 10 different streams of the army forces The right to be considered for permanent commissions and the right to occupy commanding posts was given to female officers but only in non-combat fields. It has not yet been granted in combat fields So, we can say even now that there is no true equality between the male and the female officers The court had granted a period of three months to the Army to implement this ruling but the government asked for an extension of 6 months due to COVID19 On 7th July, the Supreme Court granted an extension of merely one month

This means that the army would have to abide by this judgment by 7th August The Supreme Court has also directed to give permanent commissions to women in 7 streams in the Navy There is an acute shortage of around 9,427 officers and 68,864 jawans in the Indian armed forces This shortage can be filled up by recruiting these capable women All this makes it clear that even though change might come slowly, but it will come for sure If you compare the centuries of oppression that women had to endure and the denial of equal opportunities to women in comparison to men and compare that to 20-25 years, then it isn’t a very long time The issue is of equal opportunities Both the male and the female officers should have equal rights to occupy commanding positions, permanent commissions, equal pay, and same pensions

Women should not be denied the rights given to men based on biological differences alone This is exactly a critical issue that arises in our society and our country If we deny such opportunities to half of the population of the country, then how will the country progress? It is everyone’s duty to change the mentality of the society. If we gradually change our mentality, then the mentality of the society would change simultaneously Not only in the army, but also in normal jobs and in offices there would be equality between the males and the females

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