On Tuesday, March 8, the Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha announced that the first batch of female fighter pilots will be inducted in the Indian Air Force on June 18, 2016. Now, that day is finally here as Bhawana Kath, Avani Chatuvedi and Mohana Singh were commissioned today, as per reports by NDTV.
“We inducted women as pilots in 1991, but on only helicopter and transport (planes). I must thank the Defence Minister for having approved the IAF’s proposal to induct women as fighter pilots. Very soon...on June 18, the Air Force will get women fighter pilots,” he said. At present, three cadets who volunteered for combat role are undergoing the second phase of their training.
Mr. Raha was speaking at a seminar on ‘Women in Armed Medical Corps’ that had been organised to mark International Women’s Day on March 8. Last October , the Defence Ministry had cleared and announced the proposal to induct women as fighter pilots and other combat roles. The Navy followed suit and announced that they would induct women as well, except in situations where staying overnight on board was involved.
According to Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the credit for the IAF’s achievement largely goes to Mr. Raha. “Though I approved and support the proposal, it was he who was consistently pushing the file to the MoD (Ministry of Defence) level. I congratulate you for initiating the seminar which will go a long way in deciding the role of women in uniform and not only in the Armed Medical Corps,” he said.
As a result of his efforts, Bhawna Kanth, Avani Chaturvedi and Mohana Singh will create history as India’s first female fighter pilots. Parrikar had also pointed out that the entry of women into the IAF would take place in phases, as the ministry has to create necessary facilities for their accommodation and training. The Minister of State for Defence, Rao Inderjit Singh, clarified in a written reply in Parliament that “government has accorded the approval to entry of women into the fighter stream of IAF on experimental basis for a period of five years.”
Many people in society even today, for several reasons, are apprehensive about women in combat roles. Despite the government’s efforts to promote women entering defence services over the last few years, even former Defence Minister AK Antony had expressed his inhibitions about the same.
According to a report in the Hindustan Times, the number of women in the armed forces was just over 3,300, including 1,300 in the air force. As per the Parliament, these current numbers show a sharp decline in terms of women officers joining the forces, as compared to the last three years.
Feature Image: NDTV