New Delhi, July 22 (IANS) Over 3,500 women officers are serving the armed forces at present, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Friday, adding that “further possibilities” for women in combat roles were being examined.
In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Parrikar said the army has 1,514 women officers, the navy has 439, and the air force has 1,584 women officers. The number totals up to 3,537.
These numbers exclude the medical and dental branches.
Barring the IAF which recently inducted three women fighter pilots, women are not in combat roles in the Indian armed forces.
While the exact strength of Indian forces are not revealed due to strategic reasons, it is said to be around 1.3 million active personnel. The number of officers is, however, far less.
The authorised strength of officers in the army is 48,000, for the navy it is 9,000 and for the air force it is 12,000.
The information furnished by the minister said between 2013-15, 303 women officers were inducted in the army, while in 2016 so far, 67 women officers have been taken in.
The navy inducted 142 women officers between 2013-15, and the IAF inducted 522.
In 2016, the navy has inducted 20 women officers so far and the IAF 85 till the beginning of July.
In response to a question on the process of inducting women in combat roles, the minister said the administration “has inducted three women Short Service Commission Officers (SSCOs) in IAF into the fighter stream”.
He reiterated that it was an “experimental entry scheme”, and will be valid for “five years from the date of issue of Government of India letter dated 02.12.2015”.
The minister added: “Further possibilities are being examined”.
President Pranab Mukherjee, in his speech to the joint sitting of parliament’s two houses at the beginning of budget session this year, had said the government would soon be allowing women in combat streams in all three forces.
“My government has approved the induction of women as short-service commission officers and as fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force. In the future, my government will induct women in all the fighter streams of our armed forces,” President Mukherjee said.