Saturday 27 November 2021




Feminists are rejoicing that the girls have been permitted by the Supreme Court to join the National Defence Academy (NDA). About 1,78,000 girls have applied to join this premier Defence Academy. Nearly 75 percent of them appeared for the written entrance examination on 14 Nov 21.

The Chief of the Army Staff, while addressing the passing out parade at the academy on 29 October remarked that at least 40 years down the line, a lady might stand in his place to review the NDA passing out parade. But what he failed to visualise or say was that such a lady officer could be a spinster or a divorcee or the head of a broken family.

He was trying to make a ‘virtue out of a necessity’ as the decision to allow the girls to join the academy was forced down the throat of the defence forces by our ‘all knowing’ Supreme Court judges in spite of stiff resistance from the Generals. The Court did not even accede to the demand of the Defence Forces to defer the decision for some time to allow the academy to prepare the necessary infrastructure to welcome the girls.

The veteran community wrote extensively against this ill-thought-out decision and its severe consequences for the forces. But hardly anyone discussed the issue from the perspective of the girls who are likely to join the academy in future. Will these girls have a fulfilling domestic life after becoming officers in the Defence Forces especially after getting trained for four years in the academies to overcome their emotions and to become battle hardened to face death?

I commanded an Infantry Battalion at a metropolis. The JCOs and Jawans of the unit had their families in the station and we were extending all facilities to the wards of the soldiers to study in good schools in town and to perform well academically. Most of children of the soldiers did well in the examinations and it was matter of pride for the paltan. We also rewarded meritorious students. In one Sainik Sammelan, I was happy to reward a few girls who had excelled in the Class XII CBSE examination. The father of one the girls, our religious teacher, came to meet me in my office after the awards ceremony to seek guidance for the further education of his daughter. He was very proud of her academic performance and wanted her to join a good college in town. I asked him what kind of future life did he dream of for his daughter. The JCO, who was himself well educated, told me that he had not thought much about the future of his daughter at that moment and presently he was only concerned about her college education. On my request he agreed to come back to me after a couple of days after discussing the matter with his wife.

The JCO came back  to me the next day and told me that he and his wife discussed the matter in great detail and that he was now ready to answer all my questions. with slight encouragement from my side, he sketched out an ideal life for his daughter. He wanted his daughter to marry a well settled boy (preferably one doing a government job) from a good family of his own caste. He wanted her to have a happy married life and have two healthy and bright kids who would also have a salubrious nurturing atmosphere at home and become good citizens of our country. He agreed that if his daughter got a government job, that of a teacher or job in any government or public sector office or a well paying job in the private sector, it would become easy for him to find a suitable match for her.

The parents of the girl were not ready to accept their daughter marrying out of their caste or staying unmarried for life or having a love marriage or a live-in relationship. They were sure that the chances of the girl having a good and fulfilling life were more dependent on her right marriage rather than on her ability to make lots of money. When I asked him if a boy of his community would be ready to marry a girl who has studied at a metropolis and led a comparatively free life, he was sure that the chances of such a marriage were remote. He was also certain that his daughter might not even agree to marry a boy from their community after tasting freedom at a metropolis. Hence the answer to his question about the future education was obvious and staring him in his face. He sent his family back to his hometown in Uttar Pradesh and the girl did her education in good college there. She is now happily married and has two sons.

The anecdote has been narrated to highlight that a good life for a girl does not consist of a respectable and well paying job only. The Defence Officers’ job can only guarantee this much. This job also comes with lots of hardships in terms of long duty hours, disturbed family life, frequent transfers, hard training which can adversely impact the body of a girl and many more. Male officers are able to bear these hardships because they have a wife to look after the children and the family. A lady Defence Officer is not likely to have such a devoted husband because the lady will not marry an unemployed good for nothing young man and a good man will certainly like to earn his own bread.

These days, male Defence Officers find it difficult to get married. One of my officers’ from Haryana had gone home on leave to finalise a match for himself. On his return he informed us that his engagement did not take place. On questioning, he informed us that the engagement was called off as the girl preferred a Patwari, a fourth class employee over him. If it is so difficult for male officers to find a suitable match, the chances of finding a match for an ex- NDA girl are really remote.

Let’s examine who all can be suitable match to marry an ex- NDA lady officer. We can safely rule out all Group A Services like the IAS, IFS, IRS as they don’t even consider the Defence services as their peers. Even the engineers from the MES consider themselves superior to Defence Services Officers. Since these girls will have transferable jobs no young man serving in the private sector is likely to consider them as a suitable match because they live and work in metro cities where the Defence Services have very little presence. Only the privileged few get a chance to serve in these cities, that too for a period of around two years. Even teachers or patwaris will avoid marrying them for same reason. That leaves only the Defence Services Officers. Only the Defence Services people will muster the guts to marry them. Lady officers will certainly not marry soldiers from other ranks and the Services will deprecate such alliances. Thus, the pool of their perspective grooms will be restricted to Defence Services Officers.                                                 

An ex- NDA girl is not likely to marry one of her juniors in the rank and seniority conscious Defence forces. Even a junior male officer will not be comfortable to have a senior officer as his wife in his house. Her coursemates from NDA are not likely to marry a girl of his course as he would have seen her in various conditions and would not like to expose himself to the ridicule of his course mates. The ex -NDA officers consider the direct entry officers and short service commission officers below their level of competence. So, an ex- NDA girl would not be keen to marry someone from these entries. So that leaves only ex-NDA officers senior to the ex -NDA girl. The ex- NDA officers generally want to marry a homely girl as they yearn for a family which they have missed in their schools and in NDA.

The ex- NDA girl will thus find it difficult to get a suitable groom. But even if they manage to find a suitable match the marriage is likely to face rough weather as the ex- NDA girl will be trained for four years to be a Defence Services Officer devoid of most of the emotions and skills to bring up young children. She might even be biologically stressed to bear healthy children. Even if she manages to have children it will be almost impossible for her to devote the time and shower the kind of love and affection on her children which they deserve.

The people who have made this decision to allow girls to join the NDA has been made by the people who have no stake in the system. They have got cheap popularity through this decision. The judges will never serve in the Defence forces and their progeny is also not likely to even consider the Defence forces as a career for themselves. The politicians will get some votes but will never force their daughters to join NDA. The Generals who acquiesced to the decision will also be long retired by the time the ex-NDA girls join the forces and their daughters have already crossed the age of joining the forces. These worthies don’t realise that they are committing gullible girls to a life of hardships and social ridicule. By the time these girls realise what they got into as a very young age, they will be imprisoned in uniform for life and stuck in a life of loneliness.

Ladies have been in uniform in the Defence services for almost two decades. These ladies have been fighting their own Services in various courts for their promotion and terms of service. The Services have thus had a kind of adversarial relationship with them. Secondly, the forces are so busy that they don’t have time or will to think about the long term welfare of their soldiers. Lots of male soldiers are facing marital discord cases these days because of breakdown of the joint family system. Some of them commit suicide for this reason. The same organisation has thus not bothered to carry out a detailed study on the life of lady officers. Such a study could be a guidepost for all girls keen to join the services.

It is the duty of Defence Services to put forth the true picture of service and its impact on family life in the open. It is in nobody’s interest, the girls, their parents, or their future spouses and even society to consign girls to a lonely companionless life.