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' Army will let women fight'.

DEFENCE minister A. K. Antony has promised Parliament that women will " gradually" join combat duty in the armed forces.

" Eighty years ago women were inducted into the forces only for nursing and medical jobs," he said. " In 1992, the decision was taken to induct women for general duties," he added. The minister was answering a supplementary question from the BJP's Sushma Swaraj on whether the government plans to raise " women's battalions" in the Indian Army.

Antony agreed there was scope for " expanding" the wings where women are recruited by the armed forces. The current eight streams in which they are commissioned " are not enough," he said. " We are committed to giving more," he added.

Antony said he has asked the armed forces to study the systems followed by countries that have appointed women to combat duties.

Earlier, SP's Mithilesh Kumar and BJD's Rudra Madhab Ray had asked " whether the government proposes to induct women for combat duties, including fighter pilots in the air force?" To this, minister of state for defence M. M. Pallam Raju said there was no discrimination against women in the Service Selection Board.

" Though women were inducted in the armed forces in 1992, a conscious attempt was made to keep them in noncombat roles," he said. The number of women officers recruited has grown to 432 in 2009 from 398 in 2007, he added.

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Publication:Mail Today (New Delhi, India)
Date:Dec 15, 2009

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