M A I N   N E W S

Forces short of 14,000 officers, says Antony
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
It was almost like a customary proceeding in Parliament, as the question on the shortage of officers in the armed forces popped up yet again.

Defence Minister AK Antony, in reply to a query in Lok Sabha today, said: “There is a shortage of about 11,500 officers in the Army, 1,507 in the Navy and 1,237 in the Air Force (a shortage of 14,244 officers in all).”

The figures, however, have witnessed a slight change for the better, as Antony, in reply to a similar query during Parliament session in March, showed a shortage of 14,448 officers — 11,500 in the Army, 1,606 in the Navy and 1,342 in the IAF.

The figures indicate that the armed forces are still not considered a viable career option despite the handsome salaries offered by the Sixth Pay Commission. On its own, the Army, which is the worst affected, has worked out a plan to increase the intake at the military academies. The National Defence Academy, Pune, has increased the intake and taken it to 2,000 cadets spread across various batches at any given time, up from 1,800 earlier.

As cadets from the NDA branch out to respective academies of the Army at Dehradun, the Naval Academy and the IAF academy at Hyderabad, the intake will automatically go up.

An internal study of the Army done last year had suggested that low intake at military academies and a high rate of premature retirements meant it would take 20 years of efforts to fill up the vacancies. For this, the training capacities in the academies need to be increased and the exit rate of officers wanting to retire prematurely has to be kept low. For the second part, the Army now offers reemployment to Brigadier-level to retain people on staff jobs.

The matter of officer shortage has been discussed at the Army Commanders conference as well. The 1.2-million strong Army has a sanctioned strength of over 46,000 officers. The current annual average number of officers commissioned in the Army from its academies stood at 1,700, around 300 less than the required average number of nearly 2,000 recruits.

Meanwhile, Antony, in his reply in the Lok Sabha, said the Coast Guard was short of 679 officers and over 2,500 personnel below officer rank. The shortage of officers in the armed forces was “partly attributable to accretions from time to time, tough selection procedures, difficult service conditions coupled with perceived high degree of risk involved in recruitment and training,” the Defence Minister said.

An increase in promotional avenues has been carried out, said Antony.





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