Sunday, March 23, 2008

Discriminating Same Women

Unlike Maoists, Indian Armed forces fail to attract women

While the budgetary allocation for the Indian armed forces have been consistently increasing, for a country having one of the largest armies of the world, standing at around 1.3 million, the proportion of women continues to be a dismal 2.65 %. Even though in Navy and the Indian Air Force the proportion is a little better, standing at 3% and 6.7 % respectively, in all the three wings of the armed forces, women have a sort of a glass ceiling in terms of not just rising up the hierarchy but also when it comes to the choices of trade available for them. Even today the conventional wisdom is that the women are not fit for combat operations, and thereby the recruitments of women are mostly into the medical and paramedical trade. The rest who qualify for the Officers Training Academy are inducted for the Short Service Commission and are mostly put into the logistical work such as in the Army Supply Corps.

The real question is whether the woman is essentially so fragile that she cannot survive the war zone, as the policy makers of the Indian Armed forces would make us believe. Even though the Naxals or the LTTE are really not the best of the examples to showcase the contribution of women but, the matter of fact still remains that for both these organizations, women cadre constitute a significant proportion of their actual strength. While the LTTE not only has combat battalions consisting essentially of women, more importantly most of their suicide bombing operations are executed by females. This is not to justify their deeds, but only to prove wrong our policy makers when they say that women are not capable of combat operations. Today the Maoists have become an arduous challenge for the Indian government, and in this organization (which over the time has mastered the art of guerilla warfare), as much as 40% of their cadres consist of women. And unlike in the Indian Armed Forces, the women in the CPI (Maoist) are not relegated to any back office job, but are given the same ordeal of combat training which any male combatant is supposed to get and has the same opportunities of rising up the hierarchy. They stay in jungles for years and marry within the cadre.

It is not that every woman cadre is a die hard follower of Mao or understands much of his philosophy. In the far flung and remote regions of Central India, where abject poverty is the only reality, it is literally the assurance of two meals a day and guaranteed compensation of family members in case of combat death that are driving hundreds of such women to join the Naxal movement. The moot question is why can’t the Government of India do the same by giving opportunities to the thousands of such women to join the forces, which then would not only help them to come out of poverty, but would also make the Indian armed forces a better proposition to reckon with. This would also ensure a better way of nation building with gender and class equality and most importantly provide them with a dignified livelihood, as the original founders of the Naxal movement envisioned a few decades back.


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