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    For NDA Aspirants Girls

    The first batch of 19 women, aged 16 to 19.5, have joined the National Defence Academy in Pune’s Khadakwasla. They will undergo a three-year ‘gender neutral’ training and will be prepped to lead troops on battlefields


    It’s time for women to make reach newer heights in India armed forces. And they are all set for the challenge.


    The first batch of 19 cadets has joined the tri-services training academy, National Defence Academy (NDA), in Khadakwasla, Pune. As part of the NDA (Women)’s 148th course, they will report on Tuesday, according to a report in The Print.


    The first lot will begin its three-year training, which the academy has said will be conducted in a “gender neutral” manner. Of the 19, 10 will join the Indian Army, six will be inducted into the Air Force, and three will be part of the Navy.


    The training


    A dedicated support staff will facilitate the training of the girls, between the ages of 16 to 19.5. Training will be conducted keeping in mind that the women officers will be required to command troops of men.


    “The training objective at NDA shall continue to remain as a centre of excellence for producing military leaders equipped with professional, moral and physical attributes required for leading the troops to victory in the future battlefields,” the defence academy had said in a press statement in March.


    There will be minimal changes to the curriculum when it comes to academics, drills and outdoor training. But the physiological differences between male and female cadets mean that some aspects of physical training might be altered.


    For the accommodation of the women cadets, one of the squadrons has been identified and was refurbished with amenities and requirements specific to their training. In the long term, a separate squadron is being planned exclusively for them.


    The cadets


    Among the 19 cadets are two girls from Kerala Ann Rose Mathew from Kochi and Sreelakshmi Haridos from Thrissur. Both received calls to join the NDA on 6 August, reports The Times of India.

    Mathew is the daughter of a naval officer. A first-year BTech student, she was passionate about joining the defence forces. “I grew up seeing my dad in uniform and he is my inspiration. My mother wanted to see me in uniform,” she told the newspaper.


    The girl’s mother passed away in April because of cancer but since Mathew cleared the exam and interview before that, her dream was fulfilled.


    Haridos is the daughter of a professor and a teacher and will join the NDA in the air force ground duty scheme, according to ToI.


    Mathew and Haridos ranked seventh and 12th among the women cadets.


    The topper among the girls is 19 years old Shanan Dhaka from Haryana. She came first among the women candidates and tenth overall in the entrance exam for the NDA.


    Dhaka belongs to a family that has served in the armed forces. Her grandfather was a subedar and her father retired as a Naib Subedar from the Army Service Corps.


    “I saw the respect being accorded to army officers. Plus the trust everybody has in army personnel really motivated me to join the service. It’s an opportunity to serve the nation with unparalleled pride and honour,” Dhaka told The Indian Express.


    While all eyes will be on the 19 cadets, the response from women wanting to serve the nation has been overwhelming. In September 2021, the Supreme Court permitted women candidates to appear for the NDA entrance examinations for the first time, paving way for them to take on combat roles.


    The women who want to serve the nation


    As per government figures, of the 5,75,856 applicants for the entrance exam, 1,77,654 were women.


    More than 1,47,000 women registered for the 2022 NDA exam. This is nearly 22 per cent of the total 669,000 applications received. The exam is held twice every year – in April and September.


    The role of women in the armed forces


    According to the defence ministry, a total of 9,118 women are serving as officers in the three defence forces as of February 2021.


    The highest percentage of women officers was in the Indian Navy as they comprised 6.5 per cent of its force with 704 lady officers.


    The government said there has been an increase in the number of women personnel in the armed forces (excluding the medical, dental, and nursing cadres) during the year 2020 compared to the figures in the year 2019.


    The first time women joined the Indian armed forces was back in 1888 when the Indian Military Nursing Service was created.


    The first women fighter pilots in the Indian Air Force (IAF) started flying MiG-21 Bisons in 2016.


    Women can be commissioned to the Army Air Defence (AAD), Signals, Engineers, Army Aviation, Electronics and Mechanical Engineers (EME), Army Service Corps (ASC), Army Ordnance Corps (AOC), and Intelligence Corps in addition to the prevailing streams of Judge and Advocate General (JAG) and Army Educational Corps (AEC).


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