From Lt Gen (Dr) Madhuri Kanitkar to Capt Tania Shergill, Here are The Women Breaking The Glass Ceiling in The Armed Forces

Women in the Armed Forces of India
Courageous Women of Indian Armed Forces
Women in the Armed Forces of India
Courageous Women of Indian Armed Forces

Maj Gen (Dr) Madhuri Kanitkar, AVSM, VSM, MBBS, MD (Paediatrics), DNB (Paediatrics), Fellowship Paediatric Nephrology, FIAP, Fellow FAIMER, has earned the rank of ‘Lt Gen’. She has now become the first Pediatrician to rise to the second-highest rank in the Indian Armed forces. She now proudly wears three stars on her shoulder.

Women in the Armed Forces of India

On Saturday, Lt Gen Kanitkar took charge as Deputy Chief, Integrated Defence Staff (DCIDS), Medical, under the command of the newly appointed Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat.

She is the only doctor on the Prime Minister’s STIAC (S&T) Innovation Advisory Committee. She joins the fast-growing list of successful lady officers in the Armed Forces.

Creating yet another record, Lt Gen (Dr) Madhuri Kanitkar joins her husband Lt Gen Rajeev Kanitkar as India’s first ‘Lt Gen couple.’ Lt Gen Rajeev Kanitkar recently retired from the Indian army.

Lt Gen Madhuri Kanitkar becomes the third female officer to hold a three-star rank in the Armed Forces. The first was Vice Admiral (Dr) Punita Aurora from the Indian Navy and followed by Air Marshal (Dr) Padmavathy Bandopadhya, Indian Air Force.

Who is Lt Gen (Dr) Madhuri Kanitkar?

Lt Gen Kanitkar, a specialist in Paediatrics Nephrology, has had a chequered academic career. A Graduate of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC) in 1978, she holds the distinction of topping all three phases of her MBBS at Pune University. In 1982, she received the Kalinga Trophy in academics, and the same year, she was commissioned into the Army Medical Corps (AMC).

In 1990, she completed her post-graduation in Paediatrics Nephrology before heading to AIIMS in New Delhi for further training in the same field. Later, she pursued Fellowship at NUH Singapore and GOS London. She completed the FAIMER fellowship in Medical Education.

Paediatrics Nephrology is a highly specialised field, and she was responsible for setting up Nephology units in the Armed Forces’ medical facilities in Pune and Delhi.

In 2017, she took charge as Dean and Deputy Commandant of the Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC). Before her current appointment as Deputy Chief, Integrated Defence Staff (DCIDS), Medical, she served at the Northern Command Hospital at Udhampur.

An inspiring message to all

Speaking to the Indian Express, Lt Gen Kanitkar had this to say to young women about pursuing a career in the Armed Forces. “This organisation is fair, transparent, respected and safe for a woman where she is given opportunities to grow. If there is one message I would like to share, it is to enjoy every day in uniform with childlike enthusiasm and challenge yourself to achieve the impossible. Never give up, just give back! To every woman in uniform, I can say ‘half the world is yours to take, but the full is yours to give’. So, always give your best.”

Other successful women in uniform breaking the glass ceiling

The winds of change continue to sweep the Indian Armed Forces as more women are joining the ranks of their male counterparts in building a successful career serving in the Armed Forces. And they are excelling.

Lt Gen (Dr) Madhuri Kanitkar, Vice Admiral (Dr) Punita Aurora, and Air Marshal (Dr) Padmavathy Bandopadhya have demonstrated their skill and competence in the medical field of the armed forces.

However, other women are creating their paths in male-dominated areas such as flying combat aircraft and serving different roles.

Collectively, they stand as great examples for other younger women to step out and join the forces in serving the nation standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their male counterparts.

Captain Tania Shergill, Indian Army

January 26, 2020, witnessed Captain Tania Shergill lead an all-male contingent in the Republic Day parade in New Delhi. Capt Shergill is a fourth-generation soldier to serve in the military after her great-grandfather, grandfather, and father.

A B.Tech in Electronics and Communications, Capt Shergill joined the Corps of Signals, where she intends to build on her technical knowledge as she moves up for higher responsibilities. The forces offer tremendous opportunity and motivation to pursue skills and learning based on interest and aptitude.

Squadron Leader Khushboo Gupta, Indian Air Force

Sq Ldr Khushboo Gupta became the first woman chopper pilot to fly to the Siachen Glacier, the world’s highest combat zone. To be cleared for flying to Siachen is no mean task, and many pilots fail to make the grade. Not Sq Ldr Gupta.

An air warrior par excellence, Sq Ldr Gupta completed the challenging Jungle and Snow Survival Course and is now a Flying Instructor training other young chopper pilots.

Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi, Indian Air Force

Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi has carved out a dream career for herself. She became the first female pilot to qualify to fly fighter aircraft. She earned her stripes on a MiG-21 Bison, a mean machine but an extremely versatile fighter aircraft. It’s the same aircraft Wg Cdr Abhinandan flew when he shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter in the post-Balakot action.

Flying Officer Chaturvedi hopes to qualify to fly the feared Rafale fighter someday.

Sub-Lieutenant Shivangi, Indian Navy

On December 2, 2019, Sub-Lieutenant Shivangi became the first woman pilot of the Indian Navy as she completed her operational training on a Dornier Aircraft at Kochi, Southern Naval Command.

Hailing from Muzzafarnagar in Bihar, Sub-Lieutenant Shivangi had ambitions of becoming a pilot, and she took the first step towards that dream by signing up for the Indian Navy. She has a long career ahead of her, and the Navy will provide her with ample opportunities to learn and upgrade her flying skills.

All the women listed above are an inspiration for other young women to come forward and join the forces. They are several other equally inspiring examples of women serving various capacities in uniform, and one day, you could be one of them.

It’s all about taking that one vital step forward. The rest is easy.