The Special No 5 Selection Board constituted to screen short-service commission (SSC) women officers, who can serve for a maximum of 14 years, for grant of permanent commission (PC) in the Army began its work earlier this week.
The special board, headed by a Lt-General, includes a woman officer of brigadier-rank. Women officers have also been permitted to witness the proceedings as observers in order to add transparency to the entire process, said Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand on Saturday.
“Women officers who qualify in the screening process will be granted PC, subject to their being in the minimum acceptable medical category,” he added.
The defence ministry in July had issued the formal order to grant PC to women officers in eight more branches of the Army, in addition to the existing ones of the legal and education wings.
The eight branches are Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), and Intelligence Corps.
Women number just over 1,600 in the 43,000-strong officer cadre in the Army.
The military brass for long opposed PC and command roles for women due to “operational, practical and cultural problems”. Women officers, of course, are still not allowed to join main combat arms like infantry, mechanized infantry, artillery and armoured corps in the Army.
They also cannot serve on board warships and submarines in the Navy. But the IAF, which already had women transport aircraft and helicopter pilots, has commissioned 10 women as fighter pilots since 2016 to break yet another glass ceiling.
Though women officers (they are not recruited in lower ranks) are being inducted into the armed forces since the early-1990s, they number just 1,653 in the Army, 1,875 in IAF and 490 in Navy in the 65,000-strong officer cadre of the 15-lakh strong armed forces. These figures do not include women officers in the medical, dental and nursing streams, who are inducted through the PC route.