Pay Commission Report has failed to Spur Indian Youth to Join the Armed Forces

The print and electronic media have given wide coverage to the failure of the Sixth Pay Commission report to meet the aspirations of the officers and PBOR (personnel below officer rank) of the armed forces. The government has appointed a committee headed by the Cabinet Secretary and comprising the Defence, Finance and Home Secretaries, to look into the anomalies in the recommendations of the Pay Commission and suggest remedial measures. It is a travesty of the principles of natural justice and sound administration that there is no member of the armed forces on this committee. 

It has been a long-standing demand of the armed forces that a separate Pay Commission should be appointed for them as a general-purpose Pay Commission cannot possibly be expected to fully grasp the magnitude of the hardships and privations that they face on the borders as well as in peace stations and the trauma of frequent separations that their families are subjected to. However, no government has considered it necessary to concede this legitimate demand. In fact, no government has deemed it appropriate to even appoint a former Chief of Staff of any of the Services as a member of any Pay Commission. 

Consequently, it should not come as a surprise that successive governments have failed to create sufficiently attractive conditions to excite the imagination of India’s youth to join the armed forces as officers and to retain those who are serving at present, so that they do not leave in droves for more lucrative assignments in the corporate sector. There is a shortage of over 11,000 officers in the army alone.  A large number of vacancies at the National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune, and the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, remain unfilled every year. This growing shortage has begun to adversely affect the cutting edge junior leadership of the armed forces. There is a need to think out of the box and adopt innovative approaches to resolve this burgeoning problem.

The solution apparently lies in a re-vamped short-service entry scheme which offers lateral induction into civilian jobs after five years of service in the armed forces. Such a scheme will succeed in filling all the vacant positions and reducing the pension bill. Multiple benefits will accrue to the nation if a short stint of “military service” is made compulsory for all aspirants for the Central Services, including the IAS, the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), the Indian Police Service (IPS), other Allied Services, the Central Police and Para-military Forces (CPMFs) and other similar organisations. All new recruitment to these services should be channelled only through the armed forces, for men as well as women. 

Soon after assuming office in 2004, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had mooted a proposal to select candidates for the IAS and the Allied Services after the 12th standard, with a view to catching them young and moulding them for a career in the bureaucracy. These young candidates could be trained at the NDA, which provides the finest all round education at the under-graduate level in India. It would be in the national interest for the budding central services officers to do some military service for about four to five years, during which they would be exposed to a disciplined way of life, gain hands-on experience of man-management, inculcate leadership qualities, imbibe values and ethics and learn to be officers and gentlemen. 

To give effect to this win-win proposal, all entry into the Central Services should be through the armed forces after training at the NDA and other services academies. After four to five years of commissioned service, the officers should be given three chances each to appear for the Union Public Service Commission examinations and interviews for lateral transfer into the IAS, IFS and the Allied Services. 

Those who do not qualify could chose to continue to serve in their respective service or opt to leave with a reasonably attractive golden handshake at every five year interval. It is a proposal that can be quite easily implemented and an idea whose time has come.

(The writer is Director, Centre for Land Warfare Studies, New Delhi. kanwal.gurmeet@gmail.com) 
(Reproduced from an earlier article.)