29 June:Facing a shortage of 11,500 officers, the Army has indicated to its leadership that it will take up to 20 years of best efforts to fill up the vacancies.
"This projection is conditional. Army can fill up the vacancies in 20 years only by increasing training capacities in officers academies, keeping exit rate of Army officers low, and a handsome pay package to attract qualified youth," a senior officer at the Army headquarters told a news agency.
The data, compiled through a study, showed that Army faced an average of 1,500 pre-mature retirements (PMRs) of officers every year. The current annual average number of officers commissioned in the Army stood at 1,700.
At present, the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun has a capacity to train 950 officers per year and the Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) about 500 officers. It could be stretched to allow IMA accommodate 1,100 cadets and OTA 600 cadets a year.
"This will mean, the Army has a net increase of about 200 officers every year considering the present rate of PMRs and in-take in academies. At this rate, army will never make up the shortage in its officer cadre," the officer said.
On the basis of the study, it was suggested at the recent Army Commanders Conference that the rate of in-take in the IMA and OTA should be increased by raising training capacities of the two institutions.
"Army Commanders have been told that IMA and OTA need to improve capacities such as class rooms, accommodation, number of trainers, training facilities and firing range, and increase in-take," the officer said.
Accordingly, if capacities were increased at the two academies to allow higher in-take of 1,450 in IMA and 650 in OTA, additional number of officers commissioned every year would increase by another 400 on an average.
"These 400 new officers will be the net increase, considering that average PMRs remained below existing 1,500. Even then, Army will require 17 years to fill up existing shortage. For increasing capacities, the academies need a three-year lead time. Hence the 20-year crystal gazing," the officer said.
At present, an aspiring youth needed to go through the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) written examination before qualifying for the Services Selection Board (SSB) interview, where he or she would be judged as qualified to join the academies on the basis of their intelligence and attitudes.
The candidates is evaluated on picture perception and description, leadership skills, team building and team work, through group discussions and team tasking.
"Since the judging process is rigorous, SSB has earned the sobriquet ‘rejection boards’ in its search for officer like qualities in new recruits.”
"If this is a problem in finding right talent, more often than not about 30 per cent of candidates, who clear the UPSC exam, do not turn up for SSB," the officer, who has been a selector on the SSB, said.
In fact, even those selected by SSB do not join the academies when the course starts, all because they are better qualified to get into professional courses, and end up joining the IITs and IIMs.
"The problem also exists in low pay package the officers get. Youngsters today are conscious and aware of the high pay packet the corporate’s pay them if they choose a career there.”
"It will be an Herculean task to wean them away from the Corporate world. That’s why this 20-year time span needed to fill up existing shortage is conditional to the government providing a better pay to officers to attract youth," the officer said.
More over, a better pay for middle-rung officers of Majors to Brigadiers – the most number opting to quit the force – was required to keep PMR rates at existing levels.
"A large number of middle-rungers, who are well-trained and experienced, are already disillusioned with the service due to low salaries and lesser promotion avenues. It will become increasingly difficult to retain these officers," the officer pointed out
The study, discussed at the Army Commanders Conference, needs political approval for implementation immediately.
"We have to act now if we want to catch up in 20 years. It is going to be too long a time span. And there is no time to waste," he said. courtsey : dd news