For Compulsory army service

The Observer | Mar 19, 1997

In recent months a great deal of media attention has been focused on the shortage of approximately 12,00 officers in the Indian Army and the deleterious effects of this problem on the Army’s war-fighting capability . While it is too early to assess the long-term impact of the recommendation of the Fifth Pay Commission on the psyche of the Indian youth, it is clear that joining the Army will remain an option of the last resort in the choice of career as the new terms and conditions are unlikely to enthuse and motivate young people to opt for a life of hardship and sacrifice.

As the shortage of officers the solution apparently lies in a revamped short –service entry scheme which offers lateral induction into civvy street after eight to 10 years of army service.

Such a scheme would offer the twin benefits of filling the vacant positions as also reducing the pension bill. However, the jobs on offer for lateral absorption would have to be attractive enough to induce talented young men to join the Army. The Central government must itself absorb all the officers scheduled for re-lease from the Army. The most practicable method and the one with multifarious benefits to the nation, would be to make ‘Military Service’ compulsory for all aspirants for the central service including the Indian Administrative Service (LAS) and the Indian Foreign Service (IFS).

Direct recruitment to the IAS, IFS and allied services should be stopped in a phased manner. Entry into the Army, Navy and Air Force should be through the UPSC-conducted Combined Defence Services’ examination for the National Defence Academy (NDA). fitter eight years of service, all volunteer officers should be given three chances each to appear for the UPSC examinations and inter-views for lateral transfer in to the IAS, IFS and allied services.
The number of officers who may be released for transfer by each of the three services, would have to be in conformity with the overall strength of officers in each service so that there are no wide disparities. Those who do not qualify would continue to soldier on in their respective service.

Assuming that the bait of eventual transfer to the Central Services would be a lucrative enough inducement for talented young men and women to join the armed forces, such a step would not only completely eliminate the short age of officers, but also considerably enhance the quality of the junior leadership of the Services.

As most of the operations during counter-insurgency commitments are conducted at platoon and company levels, this would increase the effectiveness of the Army when employed on internal security duties.

As present, officers from the NDA get commissioned at 21 to 22 years of age. With eight W 10 years of service, those selected would be absorbed into IAS at about 29 to 30 years .This would be only marginally higher than the , present average age of IAS officers on joining, which is 26 to 28 years.

Their acquaintance with and insights into the unique diversity of India’s cultural traditions would surely stand them in good stead in the remaining 30 years of service.

It has been accepted by almost all perceptive observers of the national scene that in these times of a falling national character ,with rampant corruption ,political dishonesty and expediency and widespread nepotism ruling the roots ,the three service have played a stellar role in holding the national together as a viable political entity.

A disciplined way of life, highly advanced and pragmatic man management techniques, a no nonsense approach to problem solving and active secularism, have helped the Services to avoid falling prey to the hazards and maladies affecting the other organs of the state.

The officer transferring to the Central services are bound to carry with them these impeccable attributes and will undoubtedly succeed in transforming, the manner in which the government conducts the business of administration.

Compulsory military service for entry in to the Central Services will also result in giving the civilian bureaucrats a batter understanding of India’s defence and security interest and needs and will create a permanent bond of camaraderie and friendship between the civilians and the servicemen.