The Wives fight it out, Indian Airforce

The Wives fight it out

On Dec 13 1997, in what was perhaps an indicator of the high pitch that passions over disparities in pay packets in the Air Force had reached, disgruntled wives of Air Force technicians smashed plates and virtually came to blows with pilots' wives at a stormy ladies' meet at the Hindon Air Force station in Ghaziabad.

In fact the matter did not end there. On the contrary things took a turn for the worse the next morning when the technicians' wives gathered at the air base and after walking out of the prohibited area blocked the entry gate for more than three hours.

Earlier in the week, wives of Air Force engineer officers at the Air Force Technical College (AFTC) in Bangalore came on to the streets in protest against a raw deal meted out to their husbands in the Fifth Pay Commission. The women stopped the convoy of the Air Force Training Command Chief and shouted slogans against the Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal S.K. Sareen.

Sources at the Hindon air base said that the unprecedented incident took place at the fortnightly meet of the Air Force Wives Welfare Association (AWWA). Apparently, the meeting took place amidst an atmosphere of confrontation which had been building for some time and it became just the right venue to vent emotions already running high.

S. Sharma, secretary, Technical Airmen Wives Association (TAWA), while talking to The Indian Express, alleged that the immediate provocation was a series of ``sarcastic remarks'' made by Air Officer Commanding (AOC) Air Commodore Guru Nathan's wife against non-commissioned technical officers.

The AOC's wife, who is also the chairperson of AWWA, is reported to have said aloud that the non-commissioned technical officers had been adequately compensated in the Fifth Pay Commission and that their agitation was unjustified. The observations infuriated the wives of the technicians present there and a verbal duel ensued with battle lines drawn between pilots' wives and technicians' wives.

What further set off the fracas was the retort by technicians' wives that the pilots were ``less qualified'' than their husbands and as such had no moral right to a better salary. Things soon went out of control and the women reportedly began throwing plates and other crockery around before staging a walk-out amidst loud shouts of protest.

Sources said that the matter was brought to the notice of the AOC who in turn is said to have summoned the technicians and asked them to ``discipline'' their wives.

The women, who staged the dharna and were carrying placards stating: `Technicians are the backbone of the Air Force, Save the backbone' and `Sareen Hatao, Air Force Bachao.'