Women officers who had cleared the eligibility criteria for permanent commission in the Army this February by the Supreme Court are all set to challenge in the apex court, the revised standards they must meet now. These include new physical fitness tests and completion of a mandatory junior command (JC) course.
According to women officers, the standards for physical test rules were “unfair” with “no scientific basis.” They claims that without proper training, one would be disqualified in these tests. Reportedly, the test is compulsory for all women, including those commissioned before 2009 and above 35 years of age, who were initially exempt from it.
In March, the Directorate General of Military Training (DGMT) of the Army made JC course at Army War College at Mhow, Madhya Pradesh, mandatory for women officers. Notably, it was only a few months ago that women officers in the Indian army were granted permanent commission by the Supreme Court.
Now, a novel Battle Physical Efficiency Test (BPET) for women officers and recruits has also been launched. The BPET includes a series of tests that assess the physical fitness to perform military tasks. In the case of women officers, it includes a five-km run, a 60-metre sprint, and climbing vertical rope. It also covers traversing a horizontal rope and jumping a six-feet ditch. All these tasks have to be completed by women over a fixed time frame.
According to the new guidelines, the time taken to run at a height of 5000 feet/1500 metres in the age category for women officers below 30 years should be 30 minutes or less to be deemed ‘Excellent.’ In contrast, the 2011 letter stipulated 32 minutes for ‘Excellent.’ Besides, the time frame for distance run (height from 5000 feet to 9000 feet) has been decreased from 16 seconds to 15 seconds.
“Women officers have done field postings in Kargil, Drass, Jodhpur, Srinagar and the Northeast, without undergoing BPET since women officers above 35 were exempt. Now suddenly asking them to complete the tests without training is atrocious. These standards aren’t based on scientific data. Many might not pass such tests and won’t be eligible for permanent commission. We will approach the Supreme Court,” a senior Lt. Colonel-rank officer has told the media.
Another officer shared that these consultations were not held with the Army Institute of Physical Training (AIPT), Pune, nor was any advice sought from any medical boards to recommend these standards.
Male officers who possess 5 to 10 years of service have completed this course while women officers of much senior service bracket of 15 and 16 years of service will now have to finish it too. On July 7, Supreme Court gave one month to the Centre to comply with its February verdict.
(Edited by Athira Nair)