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‘Compulsory military service could be an option in future’

While the military challenge for India is mounting,the number of men who were ready to stand up and defend the country is diminishing.

Written by Express News Service | Chandigarh |
January 30, 2009 2:29:20 am

While the military challenge for India is mounting,the number of men who were ready to stand up and defend the country is diminishing. While on the one hand,the men in uniform are queuing up to leave,on the other,enlistment at India’s military academies is at an all-time low.

For courses in 2008,there were no takers for two-thirds of the slots at the Indian Military Academy (IMA). Only 86 of the 250 vacancies for the 124th course were subscribed to. At the National Defence Academy (NDA),the cadet intake hit an all-time low of 190 against a training capacity of 300.

Sixty-two of 148 college graduates who passed a separate military entrance test for officers,meanwhile,opted out and sought jobs in the private sector.

The issue has become an urgent priority for the volunteer army after 3,000 mid-level commanders recently sought early retirement in addition to an existing shortage of 11,200 officers. The Army needs a total of 46,615 officers.

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The number of officers from the Army’s cutting-edge combat leadership wanting to quit has increased four-fold in the last five years. Last year,the number jumped up to a record 1,200 with most of those in the list being high-performers.

The government and the services cannot compete in matters of salary and perks with the corporate sector. India,which has fought three wars with Pakistan and has had a continuing border skirmish with China since 1947,has never turned to ‘compulsory recruitment’. Such a move could,however,be an option.

Compulsory military service could be one an option in the future,but the stage is not set for such a step now.

Others,however,contend that conscription is not the answer. Conscription to fill the shortage will lead to indiscipline,waywardness and desertions.

There can be no long-term solution to the problem until the government and society are able to mitigate them. Improve promotion opportunities for the officers like that of civil and police services; improve opportunities for officers and men to be able to spend more time with their families; re-establish social status and warrant of precedence of the Armed Forces’ officers at the Centre and state levels; compensate adequately the increased level of personal risk and hardships in the field areas and bridge the salary and compensation gap between the private sector and the government services to the best extent possible. q

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