The most subtle creation of the Almighty is – a woman. Yes, this article is dedicated to women. This creation of God enables further creation of mankind. Without women, one cannot imagine the World. To acknowledge the power, contribution, and kindness of women, the whole world celebrates 8th March as “International Women’s Day”.
Women have a magnificent and indispensable contribution to their respective community or society or state or country or the World. Today we will primarily focus on women of the Indian Armed Forces.
History of the role of women in the Indian Armed Forces before Independence- The role of women in the Indian Army began in 1888 when the “Indian Military Nursing Service” was founded during British Rule. During 1914-45, the period of the two World Wars saw British Indian Army nurses either died or were taken prisoner of war or declared missing. Kalyani Sen, a second officer, and first Indian servicewoman who visited the United Kingdom served in the Women’s Royal Indian Naval Service of the Royal Indian Navy during World War II. Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army inducted an all-women regiment called The Rani of Jhansi Regiment.
Women in the Indian Armed Forces post-Independence- Initially after independence women were not eligible to join the Indian Armed Forces. But on 1st November 1958, the Army Medical Corps became the first unit of the Indian Army to grant regular commissions to women. And finally, in 1992 the Officers Training Academy saw the first batch of women cadets undergoing military training. And since then, we have seen that the induction of women in the Indian Army has been increasing and now more avenues have been opened for women as the Indian Army will soon have women as a non-commissioned role.
The Indian Air Force started commissioning women as pilots in support roles in the year 1994. In 2015, the Indian Air Force opened new combat air force roles for women as fighter pilots, adding to their role as helicopter pilots in the Indian Air Force. Before 1992, the Indian Navy allowed women officers in medical roles only but after that, it revised its policies and expanded its scope to permit women into other areas like air traffic control, education and training, meteorology, law, logistics, and observer units.
Through the years we have observed that the Indian Armed Forces have evolved a lot for women from allowing them as the role of Medical officers to granting them a permanent commission. So, now we will discuss 4 prominent women in uniform.
Lieutenant General (Vice Admiral Surgeon) Punita Arora is a retired Flag Officer of the Indian Navy and the Indian Army. She was the first women officer to be promoted to a three-star rank. She was commissioned in 1968 before becoming Surgeon Vice-Admiral of Indian Navy she was Commandant of AFMC. She took the charge of the commandant of Armed Forces Medical College on 1 September 2004 thereafter becoming the first woman officer to command the medical college. She has been awarded 15 medals in her 36 years of career in the Indian Armed Forces.
Air Marshal Padma Bandopadhyay is a force officer in the Indian Air Force. She was the first woman to be promoted to the rank of Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force. She is the second woman in the Indian Armed Forces to be promoted to a three-star rank, after Lieutenant General Punita Arora. She joined the Indian Air Force in 1968. She married S. N. Bandopadhyay, a fellow air force officer. Sati Nath and Padma were the first IAF couple to receive a President’s award in the same investiture parade. She was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) for her conduct during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. She was the first woman to become a Fellow of the Aerospace Medical Society of India and the first Indian woman to conduct scientific research at the North Pole. She is also the first woman Armed Forces officer to have completed the Defence Service Staff College course in 1978. She was the Director General Medical Services (Air) at the Air Headquarters. In 2002, she became the first woman to be promoted to air vice-marshal (two-star rank). She subsequently became the first woman air marshal of the Indian Air Force. Bandopadhyay is an aviation medicine specialist and a member of the New York Academy of Sciences.
Major Priya Jhingan is the first lady cadet to join the Indian Army. In 1992, she wrote a letter to the Army Chief asking him to let women in and a year later, he did, and 25 new female recruits began their journey in the Indian Army with Jhingan herself included. She can be thanked by all the future women aspirants of the Indian Army for opening the doors for them into the service.
Lieutenant General (Dr.) Madhuri Kanitkar is a serving General Officer in the Indian Army. She is the third woman in the Indian Armed Forces to be promoted to a Three-star rank, after Lieutenant General Punita Arora and Air Marshal Padma Bandopadhyay. She currently serves as the Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Medical) under the Chief of Defence Staff. Kanitkar was commissioned in the Army Medical Corps in December 1982. Kanitkar was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General on 29 February 2020.
So, these were the 4 prominent women officers in the Indian Armed Force and there are many more. If you want to mention more of the inspirational women in uniform you are welcome to share your views in the comment section. Let’s celebrate this Women’s Day honoring every mighty female officer of the Forces.