IT has now been a year since the National Defence Academy (NDA) started the much-discussed Bachelor of Technology (BTech) course for Naval cadets and six months since it commenced the course for the Air Force cadets. But there are more questions than answers that arise about the overall infrastructure and faculty staffing for these courses.
The introduction of the courses has again brought to the fore the mistrust and conflict between civilian faculty and military authorities at the tri-services academy. Irrespective of who has the edge, the ultimate losers, like always, will be the cadets, who are the future leaders of the Indian Armed Forces, sources said.
While the Academy has started a new institute within itself — Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET NDA) — to conduct these courses, it has neither building nor enough faculty members to teach all the subjects for various semesters. The physics and chemistry laboratories in Manoj Pandey Block have been re-designated for BTech course, a source said.
Two civilian faculty members who earlier used to teach BSc courses and eight service faculty members form the current teaching strength for BTech courses. What is raising even more doubts, sources said, is the fact that the information about none of these faculty members has been posted on any website, citing security reasons. “When an institute like the Indian Naval Academy in Ezhimala can post names of its several faculties on the website, why not NDA? Is it because not all of them are qualified as per AICTE norms?” asks a civilian staffer.
In an elaborate reply to a query from The Indian Express, the NDA said, “The NDA has set up the new Institute of Engineering and Technology as per the directions of the Headquarters of Integrated Defence Staff to conduct the BTech programme. The Integrated Headquarters of the Navy and the Air Force have posted officers qualified as per the AICTE norms to conduct BTech classes for engineering subjects. The Headquarters of Integrated Defence Staff, Ministry of Defence, has posted Civilian Academic Officers (CAOs) for conducting Academic Training to cadets of NDA. Some of these CAOs appointed by Headquarters of Integrated Defence Staff possess requisite qualifications to conduct classes on Basic Sciences and Elective Subjects of the B Tech programme. In order to optimally utilise the Services of these highly qualified CAOs and rationalise the government expenditure, they will be allotted duties to conduct classes as part of the BTech programme. Divulging the details of the Civilian as well as Military Officers of the NDA will lead to breach of security protocols and will pose security risk and hence cannot be posted on any websites.”
Questions are also being raised about some civilian faculty members who have been given important administrative posts for BTech course at IET NDA. Allegedly, they have pending inquiries by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against them. Replying to a query on this, the NDA said, “To the best of NDA’s knowledge, no CBI inquiry is pending against the person who is named as the head of the institute.”
A civilian faculty member said on the condition of anonymity, “When the courses begin this June, it would be the third batch of the Naval cadets and second of the Air Force cadets who will be admitted in the BTech course. Our only concern is whether the NDA is doing it in spite of not having enough infrastructure and faculty to do it. The military authorities will accuse us of shouting for no reason because we are being asked to do extra work. But our question is because of the rift between the military authorities and civilian faculty, which are around 80 in number, the cadets are at loss.”
NDA, the premier military training institute of India, has a strength of around 2,100 cadets spread over six terms. In the recent times, all the service chiefs of the Armed Forces have been NDA alumni.
The Indian Express has reported several times about the friction between military leadership and civilian faculty at the NDA, including the instance of civilian faculty being denied the permission to form an organisation, and several legal cases that the academy has fought and is still fighting with the civilian staff over service issues. It has also been reported how a Bachelor of Engineering course, started by the NDA in collaboration with Pune University, had to be scrapped because it had no AICTE approval and two batches had to go back from BE to BSc courses, leaving the cadets in lurch.