Women joining the National Defence Academy will depend upon the final verdict of the apex court. As is known that a two-judge bench of the top court has passed an interim order paving the way for young women to enter NDA. Surprisingly order is directed at country’s highly professional and always combat ready 13.5 lakh ‘armed forces’ and India’s ‘premier tri-services academy’. This verdict has opened floodgates of controversy within and outside the forces. Plenty of responses, both for and against the interim judgment are pouring in from across the media, intelligentsia, and eminent military minds.
What made two learned judges to pass such order seems to be their overwhelming passion for gender equality in the country, more in the military. Perhaps it doesn’t seem to do anything with jurisprudence. What is being said is that Generals are as good in their profession as the learned judges are in theirs. If the army has not approved women entry in the NDA till now, there must be strong and justifiable reasons. Hence there is no reason other than judicial activism in the interim judgment.
Role of the armed forces is to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the nation from internal and external threats. It is not easy task when the county is surrounded by die hard and aggressive enemies. Army paid a price in protecting the territorial integrity of the country at Galwan by sacrificing Colonel Santosh Babu and his 20 brave men.
To carry out such task’s, armed forces have devised their own systems of recruitment, training, motivation, and integration of the forces into a formidable fighting machine to keep the nation safe and secure which includes the judiciary. Any alteration in the existing system, if done, has to be with the sole purpose of strengthening their preparedness and enhancing their operational effectiveness. Such decisions can best be taken by Cabinet Committee on Security. Eminent military minds don’t fully agree with young women joining NDA.
Life in the army is very tough and risky. Memory of mutilated bodies of Captain Kalia and his Patrol just before Kargil War is still fresh in military psyche. The battlefield is an unforgiving place. It does not understand decency and civilized behavior, and it does not give consideration to physical or physiological differences. Mountains do not become less steep/rugged, nor does the enemy stop firing because the adversary is not a male like him. That is why govt has decided not to depute women to combat duties.
In 2015, US General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff, after several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan war Zones, presented an internal study report which stated with evidence that women suffered drawbacks not only in the more obvious areas involving strength and stamina but were more likely to get injured in training and were much less capable of hitting a target. In 2012, on the issue of ‘Women in Combat’, Marine Capt. Katie Paronio published a powerful essay entitled, ‘Get over it; We are not all created Equal’.
She stated that her body and nerves were broken due to the time spent in full combat load. She suffered numerous nerve damages and physical problems during her two combat employments. Keeping such reports in mind, employability of women in armed forces in the Indian subcontinent mired in militancy, Jihadi and Naxal combat operations suggest that this is not the time to induct women into armed forces in large numbers and expose them to such risky environments. Moreover cultural background in men dominated armed forces would make it difficult for women officers to work with men at large scale in remote areas.
NDA is a ‘Cradle for the Military Leadership’. It was created after the Second World War and is located at Khadakwasla, near Pune. It nurtures young boys and shapes them to be versatile military leaders, remarkably different form corporate leaders and inculcates such traits in them which are needed for their success in complex and challenging situations. In many cases a military leader needs to be aware of the situations his team is in or can be in, so as to quickly ideate the ways to overcome it by using the skills of his team and execute his plan. Col Babu’s action against PLA at Galwan stands out as striking example of such leadership.
NDA was created to produce military leaders, not to provide employment to young men and women with equal opportunities. The Constitution of India doesn’t grant equal recruitment opportunities to men and women in the armed forces. Armed forces cannot win battles/wars by showing judicial order to the enemy. I was one of the few non-ex NDA officers who got posted to NDA in 1985 as Squadron Commander. My impressions about NDA are therefore impartial. It is an institution of world class. It is modeled on the lines of US West Point, as tri-services training establishment offering a three years residential under-graduate courses in academics.
But what I saw was over emphasis on physical activities such as ragging, bullying, PT & Drill; extra PT and extra Drill, long cross-country route marches, Singarh Fort punishment hikes and inter-sqn competitions which result in physical injuries such as Shin-bone fractures, in some cases incapacitating young cadets. Cadet V N Swamy of my Sqn, son of an EME officer, died of exhaustion during ‘Camp Rover’ approach march prior which also some deaths had taken place during ragging and anti-ragging. Expecting a 18 to 20 years youth to go through such tough schedule is asking too much from them. Such physical stresses have adverse effect on cadets’ academics.
Yet there is craze for NDA, thanks to Kargil War, Capt. Bikram Batra and Burkha Dutt, who had romanticized military profession. But I doubt parents are excited about their daughters entry in NDA despite the fact that NDA is producing great military leaders. Current Army, Navy and Air Force Chiefs are ex-NDA. Women have undoubtedly done remarkably well in all spheres in the country and abroad. But all these fields have been where there were NO gun wielding opponents. Afghan women have not risen in arms to fight Taliban because they can’t stand their brutality. Instead they are otherwise scared of their gross gender violations.
Our women hockey team has done well but their opponents were women, not the Jihadis. Still women who wish to make career in the armed forces have options other than NDA. Being army veteran, I will restrict myself to the Indian Army. On an average 1500 officers are inducted in the army, about half from IMA and the rest from ‘Officers Training Academy’ (OTA) including women officers as Short Service Commision (non-technical) and SSC (technical); now due for permanence.
As per the current policy, women officers are not to be inducted in the arms which involves a direct combat role and hence their entry remains limited to 1 year training in OTA. Training women for 3 years extra for administrative duties is not warranted. Standards of training were lowered for women entry in OTA. Lower or compromised standards of training and discipline for new gender entry in NDA will have an adverse effect on military accomplishments.
The Judiciary has pointed out flaws in the armed forces on many occasions. But its own track record is under attack. It has not won laurels in their performance in the last 75 years whereas armed forces have won all the wars for the country. Years have passed as it pontificates over One Rank One Pension and Non Functional Upgradation. It took over 35 years to give a verdict on Babri Majsid-Ram Janmabhoomi dispute.
Whereas Armed Forces work 24X7 to defend the frontiers at its own initiative. Only responsibility of the govt is to equip them well and leave the rest to military leaders. Army being one of the strongest pillar of the nation, it devolves upon military leadership to put across their views on the entry of women in NDA convincingly before the apex court and not allow the premier defence academy turn into a routine co-education institution.
About the Author
Col J P Singh (Retd) is Jammu based freelance Columnist. He is Veteran of 1971 Indo-Pak War, Op Pawan (Srilanka) and Kargil War 1999. He is a fond reader of Dogra history, which is the history of J&K. Also a keen observer of local political developments. He is member of Maharaja Gulab Singh Memorial Trust, ‘Dogra Sadar Sabha’ & Co-Chairman of Maharaja Gulab Singh Coronation Memorial Committee and a promoter of Dogra History. He can be reached on Email: [email protected]
(Views expressed by the author are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of Mission Victory India)