New Delhi: Battling for equal opportunity for men and women, Army chief General Bipin Rawat said on Friday it's up to women to decide if they are willing to join men in frontline combat role without separate and additional facilities.
"You have to see society as whole. I have said that if we induct women into combat role, they will have to share equal responsibility like their male counterparts because equal opportunity must come with equal responsibility. Which means that they will have to perform exactly the same task," he said addressing his first annual conference in Delhi after taking over as Chief of Army Staff on December 31.
Giving examples of the ordeals, he mentioned that when out on tanks, the men sleep under the tank during the night with no separate facility. Noting that women are present in combat arms of the Army except on frontlines, General Rawat reminded that there are no toilet facilities when they go out on patrol.
"There is no toilet. Everybody gets his bottle, he goes out...and he returns after some time. If women are willing to move out in that environment, the women themselves need to take a call. Once the women are willing to take this kind of call, we will address this issue," he said.
"So, if all three in the tank, if it is one or two women and a male, if they are all willing to sleep under the tank and if the women folk are willing to accept it," he said citing another example.
He said patrol can be for 20-25 days and the longest one to the border was in Arunachal Pradesh for 35 days.
"Now at night, when you halt, all that happens is a blue sheet is pulled out and everybody sleeps under it together.
While women are inducted into the Corps of Engineers and Signals, they have been left out of the Infantry, Armoured Corps and Mechanised Infantry.
The Air Force has already inducted women into the combat role but is not likely to post them at forward bases.
The navy has allowed women to fly all aircraft not operating from an aircraft carrier since they don't have separate facilities on board as of now. However, future ships are being designed keeping in mind that women may join them on board.