In his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke about the expansion of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) in coastal and border districts of India. He announced that from the 173 coastal and border districts, one lakh cadets, a third of them girls, will be trained.
A look at the NCC, arguably the world’s largest voluntary uniformed youth organisation and significance of its expansion in coastal and border districts of the country and the road ahead.
In his speech, the Prime Minister said under the new initiative, training will be given to around one lakh new NCC cadets and an attempt will be made that one-third of these will be girl cadets. “In border areas, the Army will train the cadets. In the coastal area, the Navy will train the cadets. And where there are air bases, the Air Force will undertake training activities. Border and coastal areas will get trained manpower to fight with disasters. Youth will acquire required skills for careers in armed forces,” he said in his speech.
Expansion of NCC in the border and coastal area has been under consideration of the Ministry of Defence for quite some time. There have also been discussions about increasing the footprints of the organisation in the tribal areas too. On May 5, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reiterated that the MoD was determined to go ahead with the expansion in coastal and border areas.
The NCC, which was formed in 1948, has its roots to British era uniformed youth entities like University Corps or University Officer Training Corps. Currently the NCC has a strength of around 14 lakh cadets from Army, Navy and Air Force wings. It enrolls cadets at high school and college level and also awards certificates on completion of various phases. Headed by a Director General of three-star military rank, the NCC falls under the purview of MoD and is led by serving officers from the Armed forces at various hierarchical positions. The NCC currently has 17 regional directorates which govern the NCC in units in various states or groups of states and union territories.
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Each school and college units have Associate NCC Officers and cadets are also assigned various leadership roles in the form of cadet appointments. Of the total 14 lakh strength, a little less than one third are girl cadets. The NCC cadets receive basic military training at various levels and also have academic curriculum basics related to Armed forces and their functioning. Various training camps, adventure activities and military training camps are an important aspect of NCC training.
NCC cadets have played an important role over the years in relief efforts during various emergency situations. During the ongoing pandemic, over 60,000 NCC cadets have been deployed for voluntary relief work in coordination with district and state authorities across the country.
While the NCC does have units in several border and coastal districts, officials believe there is a lot of scope for expansion. Restructuring of the NCC was one of the key recommendations of the Committee of Experts (CoE) headed by Lt Gen DB Shekatkar (Retd) and constituted by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar back in mid-2016. Speaking to Express after the Prime Minister’s speech, Gen Shekatkar said, “There is certainly scope for NCC to increase its footprint in coastal and border areas. In the coastal regions, where youth are already familiar with the sea, the training will increase interest in careers in Navy, Coast Guard and also Merchant shipping avenues. In the border area, the trained cadets can play an important role in various contingencies and also in supporting roles to the Armed forces in various roles.”
In his interaction with the NCC directorates across India on May 5, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had stressed on the ‘modernisation of NCC with a view to make it more relevant to the new and changed times.’ And also to ‘make the NCC activities compatible with the semester system of the colleges and universities.’
Lt Gen Shekatkar said, “NCC has a dual funding model where both the centre and states or union territories provide budgetary support. Many states have shown lack of seriousness towards this issue. However, the CoE has recommended that along with Defence Ministry, the Home Ministry and Education Ministry should also contribute towards the NCC, considering the importance of this institution to education and overall security.” From the current strength of 14 lakh, the NCC is slated to grow upto 15 lakh cadet strength when the expansion in coastal and border areas is implemented.