After a long wait, the defence ministry has approved ex-servicemen status to the women nursing cadre, Military Nursing Service, officials said on Friday.

The defence ministry gave in-principle approval for granting ex-servicemen status to the Military Nursing Service (MNS) officers, officials said. This will benefit about 5,300 serving MNS officers and also the numerous others who have retired since the cadre was raised in 1943. This has been a major demand of the MNS. While retired MNS officers were only getting benefits such as Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS) and pension, they will hereafter receive major benefits that are given to ex servicemen such as Canteen facilities, ex-servicemen identity card, reemployment opportunities and their children getting preference during admissions at colleges and universities.

An important benefit has also been given to serving MNS officers. It allows MNS officers at the rank of Brigadier and above to have star plates (identifies rank of the officer) on their official vehicles. They were not given this benefit earlier, which was indicative of them not been seen in the same light as their counterparts in the defence services.

The issue of seeking ex-servicemen status was first raised by some MNS officers in an appeal filed with the Armed Forces Tribunal. The AFT ruled in their favour in 2010. This led the defence ministry to challenge the judgement in the Supreme Court. The last hearing on the matter was on May 7.

“Now, the defence ministry has given in principle approval for granting ex-servicemen status to the MNS. It has also allowed MNS officers at the ranks of Brigadier and above to place star plates on their official vehicles.

In March, a meeting was held between the Department of Personnel and Training (DOPT), defence ministry and army over the grant of ex servicemen status to the MNS. The DoPT was in agreement of getting MNS officers under the purview of the definition of ex servicemen.

Officials said the matter of grant of ex-servicemen status and the star-plates benefit were the two main “sticking points” out of 28 issues raised by several MNS officers. But, there are still some issues which are yet to resolved.

In the past as well, the government had cleared a major demand of MNS, which was to change their white coloured uniform with shoulder stripes to khaki coloured having rank badges that were similar to that of an army officer. The matter which took place in the 90s had caused alarm among the Army Medical Corps (AMC) officers. It was apprehended that the move would lead to command and control issues between the MNS and AMC officers.