We are living through an epidemic of loud mouths, in which people seem to think it is okay to say whatever they want, whenever they feel like it. There is no longer any regard for feelings, situational context or common sense. Everyone is talking, but no one is actually saying anything. This speaking before we think epidemic is a horrible reflection of our generation.

Pertinent issues need to be spoken of with great maturity. My reference here is to some matters of military that lately have been seen splashed across as headlines due to their sensitive nature. Unfortunately, their handling has been far from subtle and are bordering on asininity and crassness.

A warning to soldiers who falsely call themselves disabled and make their disability a way to earn extra money via the disability pension at a special rally held to honour our disabled warriors was ludicrous. The Army had declared 2018 as ‘Year of the Disabled Soldiers in the line of Duty’ and hence this occasion to pay tribute to our brave hearts. This was hardly the place to make such a point by the Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat. The absurdity of it all.

And how does one feign disability? I fail to understand this. While I agree that a handful of people may have gone around the system and bent it to their advantage but issuing warnings to such culprits on a sombre occasion of a gathering of the war disabled is just not correct.

This storm was hardly over when he went on to give an interview full of statements on how women are not suited for combat roles. Like I said before, one has to think and speak before coming across as a sexist reeking of patriarchal thoughts. Does an Army Chief, who is the face of our present military have the right to decide what women can or cannot do and whether all men are ready to accept it or not? Sitting at such a post of responsibility, he should have been very careful with his words rather than displaying his clouded judgement.

As recent events have shown, women are more than capable of serving in combat roles without the standards of entry being lowered. The armed forces of most countries comprise women serving in artillery, armoured units and frontline combat roles.

The sexism among the top hierarchy seems to be on display. No one can stop or deny women who wish to serve the nation the right to do so. Such opportunities being lost due to gender discrimination is what takes us back to a regressive state. Misconceptions about the role and limit of women’s strengths also play into the outdated stereotype.

The role and induction of women in the military needs to be understood by one and all and mind-sets need to be more flexible. Why shouldn’t the military be more open and accepting to the role of women in combat? Why can’t change start with one of the world’s largest military establishments itself? It is time to leave prejudice and chauvinism behind especially when they come from a high-ranking military official.

The fight for equality has never been easy but let’s also be clear that equality is a birth right and has to be accepted on an equal footing by both men and women. We need a balanced approach and acceptable policies that have been made after consulting serving and retired military women. These are growing times of change and we must be ready for this change.

I speak here of both men and women whose mind-sets are still stuck in the days of yore that were ruled by misogynists and medieval thinking. Regressive policies have always kept us behind on various fronts. Why are women never consulted when decisions about them are being made?

Women are still aspiring for a future, where women are independent and educated. The need for change in the mind-set of both men and women is urgent. Gender equality, sexual discrimination and harassment is mired in deep seated beliefs. India, though not alone, is among the countries in need of path breaking interventions. The statistics in India don’t merit optimism: The percentage of women in paid work is decreasing, or flat lining. Women are doing their part and yes, we need influential men to step up. Not to speak for them, or ‘save’ them, but to accept that women are equal partners in change. The strategy is really about the fact that it’s men who invented the system and it’s the men who continue to run it so therefore they need to step up as equal partners.

Rather than putting the burden solely on female recruits to perform well in combat units, there is much the services can do to support the integration of women. This support can include an increased focus on career development – including mentorship – and an effort to achieve a critical mass of female personnel within combat units.

Exposure is often the best way to change mind-sets about women’s capabilities, and further integration of all combat arms roles will go far to put women on an increasingly equal playing field. By achieving a critical mass, the military can build a network of female service members within units to contribute to consistent command climates and positive unit cohesion, and to provide support and address concerns in the case of sexual harassment or assault.

Women empowerment is all about empowering women to lead a life without discrimination and with all the entitlements to live to their fullest potential.

In service and out of service, I have heard all about equality but when it comes to empowerment, it can only be delivered when we make conditions conducive enough for our women to claim what is due to them. The best ideas in the world are useless unless they’re executed well. Regardless of an idea’s brilliance, it will eventually run into obstacles. Without strong execution, that’s where it will die. Conversely, combine a good idea with great execution and it can transform into a brilliant success. Ideas evolve and grow. As long as they have a strong advocate.

The dust is yet to settle on these issues and there is already a new storm with the Chief’s comments on homosexuality and adultery. Someone please explain to him the difference between sexual preferences/orientation and sexual abuse/misconduct/offence.