While critics might argue that it would prevent qualified MBAs and engineers from joining the central services it is still debatable whether the 'generalist' central services really need them. Compulsory military service for the entry into the civil services will also result in giving civilian bureaucrats a better understanding of India's defence and security interest and needs and would create camaraderie and friendship between the civilians and the servicemen.
The shortage of approximately 14,000 officers in the Indian army continues to have a deleterious effect on its war-fighting capability, particularly on its performance in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeastern states. This shortage was also felt during the Kargil war. Despite the awards of the Fifth Pay Commission, joining the army still remains a low priority for Indian youth as the pay and allowances given by the army cannot compete with the astronomical salaries offered by the corporate sector. On the other hand, the army calls upon young people to opt for a career that is full of hardship and sacrifice.
As the shortage of officers is primarily in the ranks of Captain and Major, the solution apparently lies in a revamped short-service entry scheme which offers lateral! induction into civilian jobs after five to eight years of service in the army. Such a scheme would confer the twin benefits of filling all the vacant positions and reducing the pension bill. However, the jobs on offer for lateral absorption would have to be attractive enough to induce talented young men and women to join the army.
The corporate sector is unlikely to respond favourably to a proposal to accept officers with five to eight years of service in the army in mainstream management positions unless they have an MBA degree. Given the present mindset, army officers will continue to be welcomed only in security related jobs. The Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), clamouring as they are for greater autonomy, are also not likely to view non-MBA officers as potential managers. It is indeed unfortunate that so much importance is attached to the theoretical fundamentals of management and so little to hands on leadership experience in the field.
Clearly, the only pragmatic option for the Central Government is to absorb all the officers scheduled for early retirement from the defence services. The most practical approach with multifarious benefits to the nation would be to make ‘military service’ mandatory for all aspirants of the civil services.
Direct recruitment to the central services should be done away with in a phased manner and the new recruits to these services should be channelled only through the armed forces, for both the sexes. After five to eight years of service, the volunteers should be given three chances each to appear for the UPSC examinations and interviews for lateral transfer into the civil services and the CPMFs. Those who do not wish to leave or fail to qualify can continue.
The bait of an eventual transfer to the central services would induce talented young men and women to join the forces. Such a step would not only eliminate the shortage of officers in a few years, but also considerably enhance the quality of the junior leadership of the services. As most of the operations during counter-insurgency and internal security commitments are conducted at platoon and company levels, this would increase its effectiveness. However, such a move is bound to meet stiff resistance and would require supreme political will to implement.
While critics might argue that it would prevent qualified MBAs and engineers from joining the central services it is still debatable whether the ‘generalist’ central services really need them. Graduates of the NDA receive a bachelor’s degree. However, the syllabus needs to be suitably modified to accommodate the special managerial requirements of the central services. In the case of CDS, a recognised management diploma can be included in the syllabus and, if considered necessary, the duration of training can be increased to two years to enable the Gentlemen Cadets (GC) to acquire an MBA degree.
Working as armed officers they would gain first hand experience of the local problems, which would come handy in their disposition as civil servants. Their acquaintance with the unique diversity of India’s culture and traditions, reflected in the armed forces, would surely stand them in good stead in the remaining years of their service. The three services in general and the army, in particular, have played a stellar role in holding together nation’s integrity. A disciplined way of life, highly advanced and pragmatic man-management techniques, a no-nonsense approach to problem solving and active secularism, has helped the services to avoid falling prey to the malign afflicting the other organs of the state. The officers joining the civil services from the armed forces in all likelihood would carry with them these attributes which might succeed in transforming the manner in which the bureaucracy conducts the business of administration.
Compulsory military service for the entry into the civil services will also result in giving civilian bureaucrats a better understanding of India’s defence and security interest and needs and would create camaraderie and friendship between the civilians and the servicemen. A high-power committee will need to be constituted to study the issue in detail and evolve modalities for introducing compulsory national service for recruitment to the civil services. But before that the issue should be debated widely.