Storming the male bastion...

The battle for parity of the sexes has been carried to the skies, with women enrolling for combat duty in the Indian Air Force. As they show themselves equal to the challenge, another male bastion has been successfully stormed, say SUBHA RA AGGARWAL and NEETA SINGH ANAND... .

THE INDIAN Air Force was the first of the three wings of the armed forces to induct women into combat duty. Over the years Indian women have excelled in this challenging profession.

Although women were playing an indirect role in maintaining the morale of the forces by participating in various welfare and social projects, the value of their contribution was realised by the IAF when it invited unmarried women candidates to enrol for the Short Service Commission (S.S.C.).

Under this scheme, candidates in their pre-final year of engineering or related disciplines are selected to join the technical branch for permanent or short service commission. The interview includes a personality-based selection, which is conducted at any one of the selection boards located at Dehradun, Mysore or Varanasi for a period of five days. There are psychological tests in written format and GTO tests that are conducted both indoors and outdoors. These tests are followed by a medical examination at I.A.M., Bangalore and at AFCME, Delhi. For flying branch duties - with the exception of the minimum height, weight and leg length - the same physical standards apply to women as to the male candidates as well as to the women candidates for ground duties. The age limit of 19 to 23 years may be relaxed to 25 for those holding a commercial pilot's licence.

"Just deciding to join the defence service is not sufficient unless it is supported by a forceful desire to imbibe certain qualities such as patriotism, leadership, a positive attitude and ability to achieve set goals within a fixed time,'' says Flt. Officer, Amrit K.Chani.

There is a sacredness associated with the word commitment, as if it were a goal in itself. A woman's achievement is measured by the extent of her commitment to her family, environment, job and so on. Yet commitments can yield satisfaction, not fulfilment. Gradually there is a yearning for more, and it is the yearning for fulfilment that leads a person from one achievement to the next.

Flt. Lt. Karishma Bhalla points out, "Women are proving themselves in a profession which had been male dominated for many years."

This not surprising for the prototype of today's Indian woman. Having achieved the status of an equal partner, she plays her cards with confidence.

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