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Sunday, January 28, 2018

Maimed by the System (2018) released today: Please read it!!!

The Second/Revised edition of my book was released today at Chandigarh by General VP Malik (Retired), former Chief of Army Staff.

The book is available at a discounted price for a limited period here (Use Discount Coupon COMPASSION).

All other worldwide purchase links, including kindle version, available at www.navdeep.info

Please share, and Yes, I WANT YOU ALL TO READ IT!!!




Thursday, January 18, 2018

My op-ed in Indian Express: The military women and the fight to be equal

The following op-ed authored by me appeared in The Indian Express:

The military women and the fight to be equal

Navdeep Singh

Paradoxically, more than the military establishment and policy makers, the concept of nari shakti in the defence services has been powered by Constitutional Courts. The Delhi High Court ruling that women cannot be denied entry into the Territorial Army, a unique organisation of volunteers who are otherwise engaged in civil occupations and who wear the uniform for a few days in year so that they can be called out during national emergencies, is the latest in the same vein.

Though I tend to concur that induction of women in the military has to come about in a phased manner with due thought and not merely as a sentiment of political correctness, I also feel that a little more flexibility by the establishment should be at display while opening its doors. The recent decision of the Government and the Army Chief regarding induction of women in ranks other than Commissioned officers, seems to be an apt step.

Initially inducted in the defence services only as Short Service Commissioned Officers with 5 years initial terms, extendable to a maximum of 14 years, it was the Delhi High Court in 2010 which directed the Government to consider them for permanent commission. The Government of the time chose to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court where it still remains pending, but since a stay was not granted by the Apex Court, women officers continue to serve on the strength of the High Court decision. The stand of the official establishment wherein women were thought fit to serve for 14 years but not 20 years or more which would have entitled them to pension, and without any post-retirement occupational guarantee thereby leaving them at crossroads in the middle of life when requirement of subsistence is at peak, was, to put it softly, not a well-rounded stand. Things have changed since then with the military embracing more progressive policies, but rough edges still remain and the case remains pending in the Supreme Court.

The above apart, women have had to litigate at multiple stages for their rights. There was yet another case wherein the Delhi High Court in 2015 had ordered the Navy to consider its Short Service Women officers for Permanent Commission but again the verdict was challenged in the Supreme Court. The Punjab & Haryana High Court, in a landmark verdict on pregnancy rights in the military, had held that it was not proper for the Army Medical Corps to reject the candidature of a woman (where married women can join till the age of 45 and there is no training in a military academy) after her selection and asking her to undertake the entire procedure again, only because she happened to disclose that she was pregnant when she reported for duty. The Court opined that forcing a person to choose between a child and her employment had “no place in modern India.” Thankfully, the judgment was implemented without appeal.

What this shows is that there’s no easy road for women. While some grounds articulated by the establishment, such as induction for frontline combat, may well be quite valid and open to argument and then actions should not always be based upon political correctness or popular flavour, the situation needs redemption when resisting change becomes a default reaction and unfounded fears are injected in the minds of senior military brass or political executive to stall progress. For example, the oft repeated phrase ‘what would happen if a woman soldier is captured?’. Well, a soldier is a soldier and the fear of a war crime equally applies to male soldiers. Then the issue of women garnering postings in ‘peace’ areas while leaving tough or ‘field’ postings for men is raised. If true, then the answer to it is not resisting the induction of women but ensuring balanced personnel management policies, making it clear that equality is a two-way street and then strictly ensuring the same without fear or favour.

These issues are not simplistic, and the key, therefore, cannot be black & white, however a workable solution could be to decide these in a participative manner by study groups involving the defence establishment and also former and current women members of the military with the political executive then finally deciding upon policy. There are a few pointers that could be kept in picture. Firstly, whenever there is judicial intervention in matters of such policy, the default reaction should not be an appeal out of administrative egotism but introspection and ways to rationalize and harmonize the policy itself to the best extent possible. Secondly, decisions on women personnel must always be taken after due discussion with stakeholders by involving the military establishment and women members. Thirdly, regressive policies such as the Coast Guard seeking a certificate from women appointees that they shall not conceive more than twice during service, should be immediately reviewed. Fourthly, a cue should be taken from the experience of the Police and the Central Armed Police Forces where women have acquitted themselves well and have served in exacting circumstances in all ranks without any major hiccup.

These are times of exhaustive churning. Every military of every democracy has encountered vexed questions in this regard, but then like all other similar matters, the system self-adjusts. What seemed odd in the days of yore is pretty much a part of regular life today.

With the Chiefs of the Defence Services showing maturity in being open about accepting more women in the forces, the Prime Minister also calling for it, and the apex defence political appointment being held by a woman, there could not be a better time to initiate change and to review matters currently sub judice by identifying a meeting point. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Controversial order concerning military status withdrawn

The controversial order downgrading the status of military ranks vis-a-vis appointments held by officers of the Armed Forces Headquarters Civil Service (AFHQCS) issued on 18 October 2016, has been withdrawn on the directions of the Defence Minister.

The entire issue, with special reference to the abovementioned letter under question, was discussed earlier on this blog on 06 November 2017.

Many have asked about the correction of status equation of ranks other than commissioned officers. To put you at ease, the said letter did not affect the status equation at lower ranks and the said ranks continue to enjoy their status vis-a-vis other services as before. A post on the said subject was published earlier on 12 November 2008.