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Women would not fail the uniform

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By Sidharth Mishra

Delivering the Independence Day address this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced opening the gates of the Sainik Schools in every state for girls. A few days later, the Supreme Court directed the opening of the gates of the much-admired National Defence Academy (NDA), which imparts graduate-level training, to young women.

Criticizing a Supreme Court order in public is not easy, so the veterans from the armed forces largely poured vitriol on the WhatsApp groups. Much of the criticism was not founded on any solid argument but for the ‘hurt pride’ of ceding turf to the other gender. One such criticism was that charity should begin at home and that there should be a greater number of women in judiciary too.

The point, though made in ignorance, is well-taken. There should be gender parity in all realms and women given a fair chance vis-à-vis men to be part of each of the four estates – Legislature, Executive, Judiciary and Media. Contrary to the general perception except for legislature, women are taking big strides in the realm of the other three.

While women as corporate honchos, government officials, cops and media persons are having a great impact and that’s well known too, let’s examine the case of judiciary. Post-demonetisation, this writer has twice visited trial courts in relation to two dishonoured cheques, where he was the payee. One case was in Patiala House courts in New Delhi and the other at District Court in Gurgaon. On both the occasions, one felt pleasantly surprised to see young-confident woman occupying the chair of the magistrate.

Such was not the case in 1990s when this writer worked on the court beat for a newspaper. There were women magistrates but far and few in between. Given the inquisitive mind of the reporter, one found out that ever since five-year graduate law course started, a large number of women started pursuing the same.

Subsequently they took the state judicial service examinations, where they beat their male counterparts on several occasion with more women than men qualifying. In due course of time, these women magistrates would go onto become session judges, then move to the High Court and finally the Supreme Court.

So, the criticism that charity should begin at home doesn’t hold good here. The law schools across the states, which function under the supervision of the judiciary, are actually doing yeoman (or yeowoman) service in bringing gender parity within the judiciary.

A similar role could be played by training institutions like the NDA and its preparatory schools. Knowing the forces from pretty close quarters, one knows that those in the senior or superior positions do not easily allow somebody to dislodge them from their beliefs, which most of the time is too rigid. Thus, the negative reaction to the Supreme Court order.

But they must also recall that a visionary in uniform, Air Chief Marshal NC Suri, as the chief of the Indian Air Force, gave women a chance as combat pilots. Later his successors took quick corrective measures to make the work environment amenable for their functioning at their full potential. Today the women pilot of the IAF have inspired women globally including in conservative countries like Afghanistan.

Battles are today not fought on horseback. Technological prowess, intelligence, and cognitive skills are the critical attributes in a modern battlefield. Future wars will be fought by commanders sitting on computer consoles in physically displaced zones with a capability to quickly assess the situation and make the best decisions, a quality at which the women have shown to be no way inferior to men. 

(The writer is an author and President, Centre for Reforms, Development & Justice) 


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