Parrikar moots idea for raising all-women battalion

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Pitching for greater role of women in the armed forces, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday mooted the idea of raising an all-women battalion and stationing of women on warships as the “psychological barrier” has been broken with the induction of female fighter pilots.
Mr. Parrikar said induction of women through the National Defence Academy and allowing girl students in Sainik schools can also be considered. He said that even though India is a country of Jhansi ki Rani and Durga, women have been made to stay away due to various reasons.“When I became the Defence Minister, I thought that we need to do a strategic move,” he said noting that normally armed forces are male dominated. If the Army and the Navy are opened up for combat roles for women, India will join the small club of countries in the world, including U.S., Israel, to have such a system.
“There is a thinking that soldiers will not listen to a Commanding Officer who is a lady because they are not trained to do that. I don’t agree with this as the only restriction today is infrastructure,” he said speaking at a seminar organised by FICCI FLO, the women wing of the industry chamber. “In combat roles also there can be women. Why not have a complete women team, battalion of women? So the question of women officers leading a men’s team, if there is question of initial resistance to it, can also be taken care of,” he said.
Mr. Parrikar said that sometime in future, he will sit with the chiefs of all forces. “I don’t understand why we can’t place women on ships. At this stage I will not support a submarine operation because submarines are designed for unigender or one area for staff. There are no separate areas for women,” he said. “But ships can be modified and new ships can be designed to have facilities for women,” he noted adding that there is also a question of taking women officers through NDA. He said there are demands from across the country for Sainik schools to have girl students. “This cannot be done in disjoined manner, otherwise girls will get into Sainik schools but they will not get entry, all these aspects are being looked into,” he said.
Ruing that it took nearly four months for the file on induction of women in combat role to reach him despite his prodding, Mr. Parrikar said he will soon meet with the three service chiefs to work out increasing role of females. “I support women rights, empowerment, but I believe changes have to be done in a gradual manner because if you don’t do that there will be problems,” he said.

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