The Union Government is looking to have all-woman marching and band contingents, tableaux, and other performances at the Republic Day Parade 2024 on Kartavya Path. An Office Memorandum (OM) issued on March 1 in this regard has since undergone several changes but effort is on to have contingents with mostly women participants, defence sources said.
However, this has raised several questions within the military fraternity as it is not clear how infantry and armoured regiments of the Army will be able to have all-women marching contingents as neither division has women — be it as officers or in the ranks.
The decision was made in February at the de-brief session on the Republic Day Parade 2023, chaired by Defence Secretary Giridhar Aramane and attended by members of the Ministry of Defence (MoD), services and other Ministries and departments.
“After the detailed deliberations, it has been decided that the Republic Day 2024 will be having only women participants in the contingents (marching and band), tableaux and other performances during the Parade at Kartavya Path,” the memo said.
Therefore, all the participating Ministries, departments, organisations and agencies are requested to start the preparation accordingly right away, it stated, adding that progress in this regard may be apprised to MoD time to time.
Since the original memo, there have been several deliberations on the issue and the government effort is to have predominantly women contingents, a defence source said, adding that discussions are still on.
A copy of the memo went viral on social media over the past few days and has had several veterans expressing apprehensions over the proposal.
Women officers have been part of Republic Day parades in the past and have led contingents, while women Agniveeer, undergoing training, were part of the Naval contingent for the first time this year. The services do not have women in the soldier ranks, barring a small number of women Military Police in the Army. The Navy’s decision to induct women Agniveers is the first broad opening.
Last month, the first batch of five women officers was inducted into the Regiment of Artillery, a decision that was announced by Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande in January this year.
Women TA officers along LoC
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the posting of women officers with Engineer Regiments of the Territorial Army (TA) along the Line of Control (LoC) and as staff officers at TA Group Headquarters/Directorate General of Territorial Army at New Delhi, as per organisational requirement, the Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The Territorial Army commenced commissioning women Officers in 2019, in ecological task force units, TA oil sector units and TA railway engineer regiment. Based on the experience gained during this period, it has been decided to extend the scope of further employment for women officers in TA, the statement added.
The TA is based on a citizen soldiers’ army concept and officers undergo annual training on basic military skills while remaining gainfully employed in civilian life.