On Monday, the Centre informed the Supreme Court that the induction of women cadets at the National Defence Academy (NDA) has been a major policy decision and that it requires at least three months to consider long-term implications relating to the induction and deployment of women cadets from NDA in the Indian armed forces.
With regard to the number of women to be inducted for ‘NDA-II 2021’ and ‘NDA-I 2022’, it was submitted that each course at NDA has 370 vacancies for the three services – 208 cadets will be commissioned to the armed forces, 120 cadets will again commissioned to the airforce (IAF) and 42 will be commissioned in the Indian Navy.
It was a major policy decision to induct women into the NDA. Respondents require sufficient time to consider long-term implications of induction and deployment of ex-NDA women cadets in the Indian Armed Forces. The Centre stated in its affidavit that the respondents need at least three months additional time for this. Upon the direction of the top court, the affidavit was filed to provide data about women who have appeared for NDA-2021 examinations and the number of women enrolled.
In total, 5,75,854 candidates applied for the exam, and 3,57,197 took it. The NDA written examination held during Nov 2021 saw 8009 students to have passed successfully by 8009 candidates, including 1002 women candidates. SSB is scheduled to take effect from March-April 2022. In explaining the number of female cadets across the three forces, the Centre explained that the ratio in the Army was intended to ensure that a younger cadre of officers is available to carry out operational duties in difficult areas.
NDA intends to fill a total of 416 vacancies every year, or 208 per course. These vacancies are planned for all armed forces. NDA officers have a major combat component, and women officers (WO) are not being inducted into combat arms, the affidavit said. The Centre said the average intake of women officers in the last four years has been about 15 per cent of the total cadre strength.
The affidavit said that by allocating 10 women candidates per course in NDA, or 20 women per year, the women cadre in these arms will grow by 5 per cent from 15 per cent to 20 per cent. Indian Army has been engaged in a number of operational challenges, in particular on Northern Borders which have affected permanent changes in deployment and a number of other operational facets requiring in-depth analysis and extrapolated effects on cadre management, including women officers.
The review stated that a considered decision had been made to allot 10 vacancies for women to NDA cadets. This major policy decision needed time to be evaluated. It recommended that a significant amount of time is required to review, analyze, and assess the net impact of induction of women officers. Despite gender-neutral inductions, the Centre said that women have constituted approximately six per cent of the Navy’s officer cadre in the past 20 years (or 20.72 per cent of the total officers in the branches/cadres/specializations open to women induction).
According to the affidavit, the IAF has been inducting women across all of its branches and substreams. They are cleared and being trained for all combat roles associated with these branches. The Supreme Court had on January 18 asked the Centre why the intake of women in the National Defence Academy (NDA) for the year 2022 has been limited to 19, the same as last year.
It had asked the Centre to place the figures on record about the total number of candidates including women who have appeared in the NDA examination 2021, for entrance tests for Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and for Rashtriya Military School (RMS).On September 22, last year, in a first, the top court had permitted female candidates to appear for the entrance exam to the NDA which was to be held in November, last year, saying their induction cannot be postponed by one year as sought by the Centre.
The Centre stated that a study group had been formed to facilitate the entry of women, and the necessary mechanism can be put in place by May 2022. According to the top court, the centre has walked a mile and should walk another step ahead. This is because it permitted women to appear in the RIMC exam on December 18, last year.