Friday, January 11, 2008

Time for “a new deal” for armed force

The Indian army, which was once led by elite of the society including princes of erstwhile royal families, is not considered an attractive career option in the era of globalisation.
Many more career opportunities are available to young men, which offer attractive salaries and status. The Defence Ministry is engaged in the task of making a career in the Armed Forces and the Defence Research and Development Organisation more attractive.
This was disclosed by the Defence minister A.K. Antony on the sidelines of a function to mark the golden jubilee celebrations of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on Wednesday that there was need to give the country’s armed forces and scientists “better treatment” and “a new deal” this year.
The Sixth Pay Commission is examining the issue. Commenting on the lack of attractiveness of the armed forces as a career option among today’s youth, Antony said, “With the new economic boom, talented people are getting better packages (in other career avenues). We must give them (armed forces and scientists) a new deal in 2008,” he added.
The remarks of the Defence Minister are not enough and concrete steps are required to stop the number of officers who have applied for premature retirement (PMR) or have already proceeded on PMR.
In the year 2004, 435 officers applied for premature retirement and 290 proceeded on PMR. Next year was no different, 536 applied and 365 took PMR. In 2006 officers applying for PMR increased with 811 applying for it and 464 taking PMR.
The year 2008 saw further rise in number of officers with 1095 applying for the PMR and 575 officers proceeding for the PMR.
The Army is facing a shortage of 11,371 officers, mainly in the ranks of Lieutenant Colonel and below. The Government has taken several measures to enhance recruitment in the Army, but the glamour of serving in the army is wearing off.
Lack of a decent stipend, limited growth opportunities and tough working conditions have been blamed for the trend.
A senior officer said that the money that officers get for the kind of tough jobs they are doing is inadequate. The poor salary of army officers is driving away potential candidates, the officer adds.
Today there are many avenues open to boys and girls and the Army is not one of the preferred ones amongst young people, he said.
It’s true that no career option can match the glamour of serving in the Army, but status and glamour have proved not attractive enough. The Indian Military Academy and the National Defence Academy for the first time have been unable to fill their quota of officer cadets.
In the National Defence Academy at Pune , the capacity is 300 and only 190 joined and at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun only 86 cadets joined when the capacity is 250. What is more worrying is that 148 managed pass the Combined Defence Services (CDS) examination and out of this, 62 candidates opted out and did not join the course.
The Army is optimistic that the Sixth Pay Commission will address the situation and make recommendations which would ensure that a career in the the Armed Force would be more attractive.