The Indian Army is to name a woman as its best all-round cadet for the first time in its history. Divya Ajith Kumar, 21, will receive the coveted Sword of Honour on Saturday at the Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) in the southern city of Chennai.
Ms Kumar will command the passing out parade as she receives the accolade from Indian Army chief V K Singh. She beat nearly 230 other cadets, including 70 female peers, to the prize after 49 weeks of gruelling training.
All the cadets will be given the rank of lieutenant. “She has come out on top in the overall merit list. She has outsmarted all others,” said OTA spokesman Major R K Choudhary. “The curriculum consists of 25 subjects. It includes academics, weapons training, tests of endurance, obstacles, drill and cross-country.”
Ms Kumar, the daughter of a Chennai businessman, told the Times of India that she had planned to become a civil servant. But she changed her mind after joining the National Cadet Corps, a voluntary organisation for college students.
Her father, Ajith Kumar, told BBC Tamil: “She won many awards in the academy during the course. But she didn’t expect to win the Sword of Honour. It is a nice feeling.” The Indian Army began recruiting women officers in 1992, and agreed to grant them permanent commissions after a court ruling this year.
But women are still not admitted to the Indian Army’s combat units; instead, they serve in areas like engineering, the army education corps, signals and intelligence.