After declaring reservation for women in constabulary in paramilitary forces, they can now also be inducted as officers in combat roles in all five Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs).
The Union Home Ministry recently published new rules allowing women to apply as direct-entry officers in border guarding force ITBP, the only paramilitary which hitherto did not allow ladies to join in supervisory combat roles owing to its primary task of guarding the difficult Sino-India border.
Among the five of these forces, called the CAPFs, the Central Reserve Police Force and the Central Industrial Security Force have been allowing women to apply as direct-entry officers through the UPSC for a long time.
Two other forces – Border Security Force and Sashastra Seema Bal – were allowed to directly induct women officers in 2013 and 2014 respectively. By allowing the Indo-Tibetan Border Police to do so now, all restrictions have been lifted on women who want to don the camouflage combat colours of any of these forces.
"A notification in this regard was issued very recently by the Union Home Ministry based on a proposal sent in this regard by ITBP headquarters last year. With this new rule coming into effect, women can now apply for combat roles in any of the five paramilitary forces of the country," a senior officer said.
The officer added the decision was taken by the government in the backdrop of Home Minister Rajnath Singh recently announcing that women will soon account for 33% of constable-rank personnel in CRPF and CISF and 15% in the border guarding forces BSF, SSB and ITBP.
For the first time this year, a CAPF got its first woman chief when IPS officer Archana Ramasundaram was appointed the new Director General of SSB.
The Committee on Empowerment of Women, in its sixth report, had said there was an urgent need to provide due representation to women in paramilitary forces in both junior and senior ranks.
ITBP, which guards the 3,488 km-long Line of Actual Control between India and China, had recently declared that it is soon going to deploy 500 women troops at its forward border posts in the Himalayas.
"Women will be recruited as Assistant Commandants, which is the direct-entry level for officers in central paramilitary forces like ITBP. Once the induction is over, they have to undergo a training of about 52-weeks after which they will be commissioned in the force," the officer said.
The about 80,000 personnel-strong ITBP at present has about 1,500 women (nearly 1.75%) with the majority being in the rank of constables.
There are senior women officers in the border guarding force but they are in other service streams and not in a combat role.
ITBP officials say that while not having women officers as commanders was not a problem in the force, popularly called the 'Himveers', deputing women as leaders surely sends the message that they are second to none and can accomplish any task as well as their male counterparts.