Special Correspondent

NEW DELHI: Describing the Indian Air Force (IAF) policy of employing women only in support service, with no combat role, as “unfair and unjust,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) Polit Bureau member Brinda Karat has asked Defence Minister A.K. Antony to check discrimination on the grounds of gender.

All Short Service Commission (SSC) women officers are employed in support services having no combat role in their day-to-day work. No woman officer is employed to fly fighter aircraft, Ms. Karat said in a letter addressed to Mr. Antony.

It appeared that the IAF Headquarters had taken the view that there was no need to grant permanent employment to SSC women officers. This contradicted the Government order that permanent commission would be offered to willing officers, Ms. Karat said. “This amended policy will affect mainly women officers during 2006 and 2007 since all men officers of corresponding SSC have already been considered for permanent commission.”

Ms. Karat said that she was given to understand that even the pension regulations for the IAF may not be applicable to SSC women officers since officers required a minimum service of 20 years.

Drawing the attention of the Minister to what appeared to her as a case of gender bias, Ms Karat pointed out that there were only about 750 women officers, which was a mere 7.1 per cent of the officers cadre. All of them, except for medical officers, are SSC officers, some of them having a continuous service of up to 14 years.