New Delhi: Enrolment of women as sailors in the Navy and their inclusion as "sea-going cadre" in the near future were on the agenda during discussions at the Naval Commanders Conference, official sources said on Friday.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her address to the top naval brass, also pushed for greater enrolment of women in the Navy. The three-day conference concluded on Friday.
"The defence minister urged the Navy to give an impetus to the enrolment of women in the Navy. To this, Navy chief (Sunil Lanba) confirmed that enrolment of women in the sailor rank was one of the agendas in the conference. Inclusion of women as sea-going cadres is also being looked at in the near future," a source said.
At present, women are deployed in different branches of the Navy but are not sent at sea. They, however, work as observers in Navy's Dornier aircraft, IL-38 and P-8i reconnaissance aircraft.
There are over 639 women personnel in Navy, including 148 medical officers and two dental officers. The women officers are deployed in areas such as education, law and naval construction. Currently, women are recruited only as officers in all the three services.
The sources said at the conference, there was a significant focus on the Andaman and the Nicobar Command, the only tri-services command of the defence forces.
While additional budget was assured towards the only tri-services command, the defence minister has asked to pro-actively optimise all the budget by innovative means, the sources said.
Sitharaman also said the Chief of Integrated Defence Staff to the Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (CISC) will be a part of the commanders conference of all the three services, the sources said.
A defence ministry statement said the conference undertook a review of the Navy's modernisation plan including induction of aircraft carrier, ships, nuclear powered submarines, conventional submarines, revitalisation of the aviation and sub-surface assets and induction of certain state-of-the-art weapons, sensors and equipment.
Further, development of technical and support infrastructure for maintenance of these assets were also discussed in consonance with the 'Indian Naval Indigenisation Plan 2015-30', which has formulated the requirements of the Navy towards indigenous development of equipment and systems over the next 15 years, the statement said.
Sitharaman reviewed the combat readiness of the Navy, pace of modernisation and progress of various acquisition and infrastructure related cases. She extolled the Navy's diplomatic efforts to support the regional navies, the statement said.
She also lauded the Navy for the "outstanding and efficient" Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations undertaken in the wake of the recent floods in Kerala wherein close to 17,000 personnel were rescued.
In the last six months, the sources said, Capital Acquisition Contract worth Rs 17,000 crore has been signed. Procurement proposals amounting Rs 3000 crore, Rs 2300 crore for infrastructure and additional manpower of nearly 1100 have been sanctioned.
The sources added that Sitharaman also appreciated the Navy for being the "frontrunner" in the 'Make in India' as 82 per cent of Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) have been accorded to Indian vendors, 71 per cent of the total cost of the contracts have been concluded with Indian vendors.
A Deep Submergence Rescue Vessel (DSRV) for Search and Rescue Mission in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) will be operational by the year end, the sources said.