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Posted at: May 1, 2019, 7:17 AM; last updated: May 1, 2019, 7:17 AM (IST)

11 Cols opt out of coveted courses, highest in decade

‘Structured marks’ system removal in 2017, no guarantee of promotion and premature retirement plan seen as prime reasons

Ajay Banerjee

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, April 30

In a sign of changing times, about a dozen Colonel-level officers of the Army have opted out of the prestigious and much-coveted higher command course (HCC) and the higher defence management course (HDMC).

The number of officers opting out is the highest in more than a decade. In 2008, 10 Colonels opted out in the backdrop of a rising economy offering jobs to these mid-career officers. Since then, four to six officers have opted out mostly due to personal and family reasons. This year has seen a surge due to several reasons.

These officers were selected to do the courses based on their performance as commanders of their battalions and their service of almost 18 years.

Each year, there are 86 vacancies in HCC, conducted at Mhow near Indore, and another 92 vacancies in HDMC, conducted at Secunderabad. Both courses are of 11-month duration during which the officers — usually between 38-39 years of age — are exposed to various facets of war fighting, new technologies, besides latest issues of global importance.

Top sources in the Army cite two possible trigger points behind the officers opting out of the courses. One reason is the change in the policy in 2017. Before that, a system of ‘structured marks’ existed for officers doing HCC and HDMC. These marks were then added for selection as Brigadier. In 2017, the ‘structured marks’ system – or fixed measurable system of marks — was removed.

Notably, the number of annual vacancies of Brigadiers — some 150 are selected each year — is way lesser than the 178 vacancies at HCC and HDMC. In other words, even if an officer does these courses, there is no guarantee of promotion. In the pre-2017 system, additional marks meant the officer had an edge over those who had not done these courses.

Since there are around 4,500 Colonels and 1,100 Brigadiers, it means only 33 per cent of Colonels get promoted. The selection to the top posts in the Army is often missed on decimal points, accumulated over years of service, gallantry awards, etc.

The second reason cited by sources are that these officers who have opted out maybe looking to leave the force, which they can by seeking premature release (PMR) after completion of 20 years of service. Officers doing HCC and HDMC have to fill a bond that they would be serving for at least five years more. Those wanting to leave may not want to enter into the bond. 

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