In an effort to encourage female participation in various sectors, the government has decided that the Republic Day parade at Kartavya Path will see participation only by women in march pasts, tableaux and other performances.
The Defence Ministry, in this regard, has written a letter to the armed forces and other government departments associated with the parade, stating that the marching contingents, military bands accompanying the marching contingents and tableaux will have only women participants.
The letter comes as a surprise for several senior military officers and has also created confusion. Many believe that there aren't enough women available in forces for this. The current situation is that some marching contingents consist of men only.
Significantly, the armed forces have taken several measures, including assigning command roles to women, grooming them for future leadership roles and allowing them to join artillery regiments, to promote gender equality.
According to information, the decision to encourage women's participation in the parade was taken during a meeting held on February 7. The meeting, chaired by Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane, was attended by senior representatives from the Army, Navy, Air Force, Ministry of Home Affairs, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Ministry of Culture, and Ministry of Education.
About a month after the meeting, the Defence Ministry formally issued a letter to participating forces, ministries and departments on March 1.
In the letter, emphasis was laid on the role of women in the parade to be held next year.
The letter noted that after detailed deliberations, it has been decided that the contingents (marching and bands), tableaux and other displays during the parade on the Kartavya Path will have only women participants.
All the participating ministries, departments and organisations have also been asked to initiate preparations for the same and share the progress made with the Defence Ministry from time to time.
Some senior officials believe that the government will do what is practical, and for the time being it is difficult to have only female participants in all marching and band contingents.
Significantly, the marching contingents of the infantry in the Republic Day parade constitute the largest number of personnel. Officials argue that women have not yet been included in the infantry. Officers who lead marching contingents consist of personnel below officer rank (PBOR) and the Army has the PBOR cadre women personnel only in the Military Police Corps, they assert.
However, it is not that women have no representation in force or that women are marginalised. They are being assigned roles equivalent to men in all three services - they fly fighter aircraft, serve on warships, are inducted into the PBOR cadre, are eligible for permanent commission, are assigned command roles, and also women officers are undergoing training at the National Defence Academy. Despite this, infantry, tanks and combat positions still do not have that participation of women.
According to the Indian Army, Colonel Geeta Rana has recently become the first woman army officer to command an independent unit in the sensitive Ladakh region bordering China. Apart from this, for the first time, the army has deployed a woman officer Captain Shiva Chauhan in the world's highest and coldest battlefield Siachen this year itself. The army has also deployed its largest contingent of 27 women peacekeepers to the disputed region of Abyei in Sudan.