//Army Vice Chief apologises for remark

Army Vice Chief apologises for remark

New Delhi, June 20: Four days after his remarks on women officers stirred a hornet's nest, Vice Chief of the Army Lt Gen S Pattabhiraman tenderded an apology saying he had 'personal commitment and healthy respect towards the role of lady officers in Army'.

The Army Vice Chief's remarks in a leading newspaper last week that the Army could do well without its women officers and that 'comfort levels with women officers was low' had sparked countrywide protests from women's groups, including National Commission for Women, and main Opposition BJP which had demanded his suspension.

"Should my remarks have caused any anguish or doubt about my personal commitment and healthy respect towards the role of lady officers, I have no hesitation in rendering an apology to such groups or sections of society or individuals", Pattabhiraman said.

"It is unfortunate", Pattabhiraman said, that 'remarks ascribed to me about women officers in the army has caused consternation and generated adverse publicity'.

The Army Vice Chief said he would like to place on record that the women officers joining the army as part of women's special entry scheme have contributed in as much measure as their male counterparts towards upholding the army's traditional work culture and ethos. Women, he said, had 'excelled in fields like adventure sports and shooting apart from providing value addition to army work in fields such as education, IT, communication, engineering, architecture, inventory management, intelligence and combat logistics'.

Pattabhiraman said women in the country had played a stellar role not only in nation-building but also in adventure activities like climbing the world's tallest peak 8848 metre high Mount Everest.

The Army began inducting women in 1993 and about 918 women are at present in the forces. Though they started in streams like education and supply corpse, women later entered service in artillery, engineers, intelligence and other fields.

The Army Vice Chief's reported remarks about the women officers had come against the backdrop of suicide by Lt Sushmita Chakrabarty in Udhampur, Jammu and Kashmir, apparently due to stress.

The Army had said that Pattabhiraman had been misquoted and Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee on Sunday last mounted a damage-control exercise by saying that more and more women should join the Army as they have done a very good job.

Senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj had demanded suspension of the Army Vice Chief for his reported remarks and National Commission for Women Chief Girija Vyas said Pattabhiraman should take back his words