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Female wing commander drags IAF to court.

Summary: Thakur, who led the Guard of Honour during US President Barack Obama's visit to India last year, miffed after being denied full service

Karuna Madan, Correspondent

New Delhi: Wing Commander Pooja Thakur, who led the guard of honour during US President Barack Obama's visit to India last year, Thursday dragged the Indian Air Force (IAF) to the Armed Forces Tribunal after being denied full service.

In a petition, Thakur describes the IAF's decision to deny her permanent commission as "biased, discriminatory, arbitrary and unreasonable".

Permanent commission means women officers get an opportunity to rise to the rank of lieutenant general and retire at the age of 60 years with full benefits like the men do.

Last month, the Air Force took in its first batch of women fighter pilots, but as short service commission officers, which means they will serve for a maximum of 14 years and retire without benefits.

This move by IAF is seen as contradictory to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's call for empowering women in armed forces.

"The Indian Air Force says Pooja Thakur was offered permanent commission in 2012, she declined it then and now no new offer can be given. But the Armed Forces Tribunal has admitted our matter and sought IAF's response within four weeks," Thakur's lawyer Sudhanshu Pandey told Gulf News.

The daughter of an army colonel from Rajasthan, Thakur joined the Air Force in 2000. She was the first woman officer to lead an Inter-Service Guard of Honour last year when Obama visited India for the Republic Day parade.

Obama had said later that "the sight of incredible Indian women in the armed forces was one of his favourite things in India."

Thakur belongs to the administrative branch and is currently posted at 'Disha', the publicity cell under the Directorate of Personnel Officers at the Air Force Headquarters.

Women were allowed in the Air Force as full officers in 2010 after nearly 50 women officers, including 22 from the IAF, moved court against discrimination.

"The Indian government has so far not cleared women officers for full service. There is a judgement that women officers can serve for 13 to 14 years. However, the case is still being discussed," Air Marshal (Retd) PS Ahluwalia told the media here.

Significantly, three Flying Cadets created history just a few weeks back when they became the first women pilots to be commissioned in the fighter squadron of IAF. The Flying Cadets - Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh - passed out from the IAF Academy in Hakimpet in Telangana.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Jul 14, 2016
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