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Nov 28, 2002
Women make two more inroads.

“Women hold up half the sky,” said Mao Zedong famously. So it is stupid --quite apart from the sheer injustice of it-- to confine them at home. Why would you give yourself a 50% handicap? India has been wise. For all the bad press it gets for being ‘backward’, its gender record has been getting better.

In the last couple of years, a woman of Indian origin became an astronaut in the US and a young IndAmerican [-ah, that’s a good coinage!] lady graduated from West Point. News from India has been just as good—for those who care to look. Women scientists, corporate heads, bank chairmen [oops, sorry!] and top bureaucrats are almost non-news now.

But Padmavati Bandopadyay became India’s first Air Vice Marshall on Nov 24, 2002. That’s news surely? Earlier, on Aug 17, 2002 Vijayalakshmi Viswanathan breached another male-only bastion. She became the first woman member of the venerable Railway Board, the chamber that oversees India’s iron roads. The point about both these women is that they began their careers about 25 -30 years ago when India was the dark sub-continent to a dismissive world. So we have been shaping up for a long time now.

Between these two events --on Oct 23, 2002-- there was a picture in the papers of an unnamed woman Indian Pilot self-confidently holding forth with three women pilots from the US. They were all together in the Indo-US military exercises in Agra. Surprising? A little research threw up the information that there are today over 100 women pilots in the Indian Air Force. And the gates opened for women pilots only in 1990. Poor Air Marshal Bandopadyay-- she had wanted to train as a pilot, but given those times they gently led the protesting young lady to become a doctor for the force instead.

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