The Supreme Court in a judgement of 18 Aug 2021 said that girl candidates should be allowed to appear in upcoming exams of National Defence Academy. This judgement is an interim one, not final. The ultimate decisions are still oscillating between authorities of defence forces and the courts. This classic ‘To be or Not to be’ scenario has unlocked a memory of happenings 25 years back.
I had just cleared the SSB interview held in the Service Selection Centre of Banaras. Not just clearing the interview, I had made it to the merit list as well, therefore I had to go through the medical board for physical fitness while staying in Subroto Park, New Delhi. The board deemed me fit for the services. I was supremely jubilant at the prospect that I will be joining the Indian Air Force (4SSC ATC/FC) soon. This was supposed to be the first ever batch of women candidates in the said role.
I was already excelling as a student of MSc Physics back then. But now, since I had to join the academy soon, I had stopped my preparations for the semester exams which were to be held in the immediate weeks to come. My celebrations continued in the ensuing days until one day I received an envelope from the Air Headquarters dated 20 Dec 1994. Crisp one line in the letter inside - The proposal to induct women in 4SSC (ATC/FC) has not been approved.
Mind-numbing, it was. My Air Force dream was shattered. Exacerbating the moment was the fact that the prospects of continuing in MSc Physics also seemed to be evaporating away because as I narrated, in the assurance of joining Air Force Academy soon, the preparation for the MSc semester exams was also stopped.
This jolt was unprecedented for a youth in this competitive age. It had an absolute shock value because of double loss of opportunities and nebulous future ahead. Nonetheless, I was fortunate that I had a back up plan. I had applied for the Indian Army simultaneously, in which I got selected and joined. Purpose is but the slave to the memory! The Supreme Court's interim judgement of allowing girls to write NDA exams defines the overarching spirit of upholding of women’s rights to equality and is undeniably laudable.
My intention to pen down this is to bring in perspective that the phases when decisions oscillate between appointments, organisations and institutions, there are young souls getting impacted every moment. I had a backup plan back then, and it worked for me. But, not all are so fortunate.
I am hoping that an extreme situation like that of cancelling candidatures will not arise after girls have written their NDA exam and cleared SSB interviews because otherwise it may wreak havoc and leave indelible scars in the lives of young candidates. Because, besides being girls, they are humans too. A thorough and scientific feasible study conducted in totality before opening the doors of National Defence Academy to girls will go a long way in warding off any of such untoward scenarios.
About the Author
Captain Shweta Misra (R) is an ex-Army officer commissioned into the Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), through the Women Special Entry Scheme (WSES), 6th course that passed out from OTA, Chennai in Augast 1995. She retired in 2002.
She is currently Delhi State President of Women's Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry. She is extensively into social service for the past few years in the field of gender equality and child rights activism. Capt. Shweta Misra has seen successes in diverse fields. During graduation she has been an active NCC cadet.
She was selected for the prestigious Republic Day Camp where she rose to excel as Best Cadet and Commanded Rajpath Marching Contingent of NCC. She also won the All India Best Parade Commander trophy the same year. She was selected for the very sought after and prestigious Indo-Canada Youth Exchange Program and has thus represented India in several international forums. She joined the army in the year 1995.
In Officers Training Academy, she rose to become an appointment. As a young officer she earned praises in various roles like Commandant's Medal in Courses by being the topper. Contribution of services during Kargil War earned her majestic appreciation from seniors. She has actively participated in Operation Parakram during tense Indo-Pak situations along the border. Capt Shweta has authored books on the topics related to defence lady officers, CSR and creating shared values.
She has had a stint as Head of Northern Region of Maitri - an HR vertical of Tata Consultancy Services. She has also undertaken faculty/visiting faculty positions in various institutions. She is the founder of India's top podcast, Arvind Rama's Podcast Service. Niti Aayog certified her as country's top exemplary mentor in Atal Innovation Mission.
She was appreciated by National Commission of Women on Gender Equality Awareness efforts. She has several articles and columns published in reputed publications. As a media panelist, she can be seen in TV channels often. She has been Editorial board member in Defence Services Staff College journals.