Born in Madurai, the temple city of Tamil Nadu, a luminary was raised in a small town, where she discovered her love for books and learned about discipline from her father. She is now heading the world’s third-largest defence force as India’s second female Minister of Defence after Indira Gandhi and the first full-time female Defence Minister.
Nirmala Sitharaman’s appointment as the Defence Minister comes as a shock, as the post was rumoured to be given to Nitin Gadkari. This reflects perfectly how patriarchy-driven our society is. The general notion about the army, since its inception, has been that of masculinity, especially in India. The fact that Sitharaman is among the 16 females in the world to be heading the defence sector at a large scale speaks volumes of how male-dominated the field is. Here is a look at the journey of our newly appointed Defence Minister.
Nirmala Sitharaman completed her graduation in Economics from Seethalakshmi Ramaswami College, Trichy. She went on to study at Jawaharlal National University (JNU) to conclude her postgraduate and M.Phil. in Economics with a particular interest in Indo-European trade. After her marriage to Parakala Prabhakar, the couple settled down in London, where she worked actively for PricewaterhouseCoopers, researching eastern European economies. She served as the Deputy Director of the Centre for Public Policy Studies in Hyderabad after her return to India, and became an active member of the National Commission for Women (NCW) in 2003. Sitharaman grew quickly in the ranks after joining the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 2008 and became the second female spokesperson of the national party after Sushma Swaraj by 2010. After BJP’s infamous win in the national elections in 2014, she was inducted as the Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs under the Ministry of Finance and as the Minister for Commerce and Industry with independent charge. Working in the financial sphere, she faced serious challenges to revive India’s exports that had plummeted due to weak external demand. She also successfully communicated with multilateral bodies such as the World Trade Organisation during her tenure.
The post of Defence Minister is extremely crucial and critical in today’s day and age. Some have even questioned the legitimacy of a woman being given this great responsibility and have called this appointment unusual. Considering the fact that both eastern and western fronts are on high alert, a Defence Minister today faces numerous external challenges which entail constant dialogue with the United States of America, China, Russia, and others. Nirmala Sitharaman’s appointment will definitely forward army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s statement to the media in June about the Indian Army being all set to open up combat positions for women from words into actions. The Indian Air Force had inducted three women as fighter pilots last year, which came very timely after the government’s decision to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis.
Expectations are high from the new Defence Minister. Even though the position comes with a lot of pressure, Sitharaman is expected to handle tasks fluently because of her exceptional qualifications and understanding of national interests.
Feature Image Credits: La Casa Morett