By Monica Chadha
BBC News, Mumbai
Women civil servants in India have expressed shock at new appraisal rules which require them to reveal details of their menstrual cycles.
The form asks for a "detailed menstrual history"
Under the new nationwide requirements, female officials also have to say when they last sought maternity leave.
Women civil servants say the questions are a gross invasion of privacy. One told the BBC she was "gobsmacked".
Annual appraisals and health checks are mandatory in India's civil service. The ministry was unavailable for comment.
But one of its most senior bureaucrats was quoted in the press as saying the new questions had been based on advice from health officials.
The questions at the root of the controversy are on page 58 of the new appraisal forms for the current year issued by the federal Ministry for Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
Women officers must write down their "detailed menstrual history and history of LMP [last menstrual period] including date of last confinement [maternity leave]," the form says.
Women working in the civil service told the BBC the government had no need for this kind of personal information.
"I am completely shocked!" said Sharwari Gokhale, environment secretary in western Maharashtra state.
"I have absolutely no words to describe how I feel and I have no intention of telling them anything about my personal life.
"It's gob smacking."
Ms Gokhale said she had also served in the personnel department at the ministry which drafted the new forms and, while the health of officials was always a concern, asking such questions never crossed their minds.
Maharashtra's joint secretary for general administration, Seema Vyas, agreed that the new questions were uncalled for.
"Menstrual cycles are a natural phenomenon, they are not an aberration. One does not object to questions related to fitness levels - they are important as they can affect work.
"But there is no need for these details as this does not have any bearing on our work," she told the BBC.
"When we apply for maternity leave, we put in the appropriate application and the government already has those records so why ask again?"
She said she and her colleagues were thinking of writing a letter to the authorities protesting at the questions.
Despite repeated attempts, the BBC was unable to speak to the head of the personnel department, Satyanand Mishra.
The Hindustan Times newspaper quoted him as saying the questions were based on advice from the Ministry of Health.
"We sought the ministry's help to draw up a health-history format. I assume this will help evaluate the officer's fitness," he told the paper.