Women will be allowed to appear for the entrance exams of the National Defence Academy (NDA) from May 2022 onwards, the Defence Ministry told the Supreme Court on Monday. This is the first time women cadets will be allowed in the NDA, an all-male bastion, since its inception in 1955. The Centre submitted an affidavit outlining the steps undertaken to accommodate women after they are inducted into the NDA.
However, the affidavit was unclear on how many women cadets will be allowed admission. The Centre said this would depend on a variety of factors including cadre ratio, the desired cadre structure, capability of the specific service academy to intake women candidates, and the envisaged requirement and employment by the respective Defence services.
The NDA was a male-only bastion until the top court on August 18 issued an interim order directing the induction of women observing that policies restricting their entry into the elite institution was based on "gender discrimination".
Following this interim direction, the Centre on September 8 told the top court that it had taken an in-principle decision to allow women cadets in the NDA. However, the Centre had sought exemption for this academic year since the exams are slated for November.
The top court will hear the Centre's plea seeking an exemption on September 22.
BOOM lists the defence ministry's key plans for women induction in the NDA.
1) The Ministry is going to formulate appropriate medical standards women candidates will have to pass in the pre-admission process. While medical standards have been set for male candidates, none so far exist for women.
2) The Centre will have the necessary mechanism in place before May 2022 for the induction of women candidates. By then, the UPSC is expected to publish its first notification with respect to the entrance exams which are held twice a year.
3) In order to appear for the exam, women will have to pass the eligibility criteria including physical standards like height, weight etc. There will be no parallel standards for women at the age of entry (16.5 – 19.5 years)
4) With respect to the proposed training standards, a women-specific curriculum will have to be formulated. Aspects of physical training, along with curriculum and parameters regarding drills, equitation, swimming, games, sports etc will have to be formulated separately.
"It is needless to add that any dilution of physical training and service subjects like parameters of firing, endurance training, fieldcraft and living off the land kind of aspects for the defence services women candidates or officers would invariably impact the battle worthiness of the armed forces adversely," the Centre said.
5) Several infrastructural changes will have to be made in order to accommodate women participants. These include physical segregation of living quarters; reconstruction/remodification of bathroom cubicles to ensure privacy; security and privacy arrangements associated with physical and electronic surveillance to ensure separation of male and female candidates like women orderlies, women duty officers etc.
6) Gynecologists, sports medicine specialists, counsellors, nursing staff, lady attendants will have to augment the existing staff posted at the Military Hospital, Khadakwasla (near Pune). The capacity of wards for officers' families will also need to be increased.
7) In order to cater to the abovementioned points, the Centre has constituted a study group comprising of experts to expeditiously formulate a comprehensive curriculum for women cadets and a Board of Officers has been convened to give a 'holistic and future proposal' for training women candidates at the NDA.