On the backdrop of Indian Army Day, which is celebrated on 15 January every year in India, let’s discuss about women who broke the glass ceiling and made sure women get their due credit. The day is celebrated in honour of Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa, who first took over as the first Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army from General Francis Roy Bucher, the last British Commander-in-Chief of India.
From the induction of women in the Army in Military Nursing roles to enlisting them in combat roles across all sections of the Armed Forces, the Indian military has come far away. Women started serving in Indian Army since British Times. Now after 2017, there has been a significant boost in the number of women in the Indian Army. After Supreme Court’s 2021 decision, the first batch of 19 women cadets (Army 10, IAF 6, and Navy 3) has been undergoing the three-year course at the National Defence Academy at Khadakwasla, Pune.
To talk in numbers just over 3,900 (around 1,710 in Army, 1,650 in IAF, and 600 in the Navy) are women in their 65,000-strong officer cadre. About 1,670 are women doctors, 190 dentists, and 4,750 nurses in the military medical stream. Women were usually inducted in medical roles within the army, but now Women Army officers can get permanent commissions in eight new branches- Army Air Defence, Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, EME, Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps, and Intelligence Corps.
Currently, a special board is underway for 108 women officers to be promoted to the rank of Colonel (selection grade) out of the 244 being considered for the first time. In 2007, the United Nations’ first all-female peacekeeping force made up of 105 Indian policewomen was deployed to Liberia. In 2020, the three officers have been granted the rank of lieutenant general or equivalent, whereas, in 2021, 83 Women were inducted as Jawans for the first time in the Indian Army. Noor Inayat Khan and Kalyani Sen were a few officers from British times to contribute to Indian Army.
Indian Army Day 2023: Here are a few women who are known for their courage and grit
Priya Jhingan was commissioned in 1993. She is one of the first 25 women to join the Indian Army as an officer. She worked with Corps of Judge Advocate General. She conducted numerous Court Martial. Jhingan vouched for equal roles as men in the Indian Army. She defended the women in Indian Army as a right over the controversial suicide of Lieutenant Sushmita Chakravarty the then Vice-Chief of Army Staff. She always advocated permanent commission and giving command of units to women officers in Indian Army.
Shanti Tigga joined the Indian Railways in 2005 and signed for the Railway Engineer Regiment of the Territorial Army, Up until then women were allowed to join the armed forces in non-combat roles. Tigga became the first woman jawan in the 1.3 million strong defense forces, and also the first female jawan in the Indian Army. She was awarded the title of Best Trainee in the Recruitment Training Camp.
Lieutenant Colonel Mitali Madhumita was commissioned in 2000, and also became the first woman officer in India to receive a gallantry award and the Sena Medal for exemplary courage shown during the attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul. She saved many lives during the attack in Kabul, Afghanistan. She served in Kabul, Afghanistan as a part of the army’s English Language Training program.
Lieutenant General Madhuri Kanitkar is only the third woman to attain the seniormost woman officer position in the Indian Army is no easy feat. While she has served in the army for almost 40 years.
Recently, Captain Shiva Chauhan has been posted at a frontline post in Siachen Glacier. It is the first such operational deployment of a woman Army officer at the world’s highest battlefield. The Corps of Engineers officer will be posted for a three-month stint after she underwent rigorous training.
Divya Ajith Kumar
Captain Divya Ajith Kumar commanded the first all-women contingent of the Armed Forces in the Republic Day Parade 2015. She also became the first woman to be awarded the Sword of Honour during her training.
Lance Naik Manju
Manju, a lance naik in the Indian Army became the first woman soldier skydiver by jumping off the ALH Dhruv chopper (Advanced Light Helicopter) from a height of 10,000 feet. She scripted history by being the first woman soldier to do so. Lance Naik Manju was trained by the skydiving training team of the Indian Army’s Adventure Wing for this heroic jump, she is from the Corps of Military Police.
Major Poonam Sangwan won several awards, including the Vishisht Seva Medal, the Everest badge, the Engineers Medal, and the Chief of Army Staff Commendation Card for distinguished service.
This is historical, for the first time, a woman officer will be posted on a foreign assignment at the Border Roads Organisation (BRO). Captain Surbhi Jakhmola of the Indian Army’s 117 Engineer Regiment will become the first woman officer to be posted at the BRO.
Ruchi Sharma became the first operational paratrooper in the Indian Army, joining in 1996. She was 20 years old when joined Army and worked as a Short Service Commission officer and was commissioned to the Army Ordnance Corps.
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