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The Indian armed forces are facing a shortage of 15,004 officers and have initiated several measures, including increasing the intake of Short Service Commission (SSC) officers, to meet the shortfall. The extent of shortage of officers is around 12,349 in the Army, 1,818 in the Navy and 837 in the Air Force. The shortage of pilots in the Air Force is about 426. Indian Armed Forces are facing a number of problems. The fatigue phenomenon is seeping low down into the morale of the Indian Armed Forces and the situation is touching the irretrievable extent. Suicides and fratricidal killings apart, what is contributing more to the phenomenon is voluntary resignations by Service officers.
All the three Services witnessed a gradual increase in voluntary discharge of officers. About 3764 officers of Army, 842 officers of Navy and 893 officers of Air Force have sought discharge/voluntary retirement, with most of them moving to the lucrative corporate sector since 2004. Similarly, 37,865 personnel below the rank of officers were granted voluntary retirement during the same period. Initially, the Indian government was reluctant to relieve them, but when the mental stress of the Indian Army Soldiers resulted in fratricides and suicides the Indian government considered resignations a fair way-out of this intense situation. The reluctance of people to join forces and the tendency of premature retirement are responsible for the shortage of officers in Indian Armed Forces. There are many reasons for premature retirement e.g. low remuneration, suppression for promotion, being placed in a permanently low medical position, denial of leave, stress and low morale, long engagement in insurgency ridden areas, increase in better employment opportunities on civil side, compassionate reasons such as looking after ailing parents and children, ancestral property and failure to acquire minimum technical qualifications recommended for promotion.
Due to all these reasons the Indian armed forces today are not an enviable career choice. Every year, a lot of requests for voluntary resignations come before the Indian government but only the most pressing ones are entertained. The unfortunate applicants, whose requests are not granted, suffer from heightened mental stress and psychological problems resulting in fratricide and suicides. The situation has become so intense that that nearly 100 Indian army soldiers commit suicide every year due to stress. The contributors to disaffection among Indian Army’s rank and file are many. Soldiers in Indian Army face economic pressures such as inadequate housing, salaries, promotional opportunities and pensions. The pressure caused by economic distress is only one of the reasons to seek premature discharge from the Services. Prospects of more attractive and better job opportunities outside Armed Forces also compel officers to seek relief from the armed forces for the sake of good future.
Economic deprivation is just only one facet of the problems. However, long and seemingly interminable spells in insurgency infested areas compound the issue of pay/allowances related problems. Indian soldiers, due to long-drawn duties, are unable to avail regular leave to see their families and sort out their problems. It also induces in them the desire to leave the job. The rapport between Officers and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) is also missing. Officers at senior level are more concerned with their own welfare rather than the welfare of Soldiers, which again leads to their dissatisfaction of with their job. The hostile working conditions in insurgency infested areas have also their importance. The Soldiers, trained to fight a visible enemy, have to fight an invisible enemy in such areas and are exposed to enemy by themselves. For them, fighting insurgency is not their task. Therefore, they want to leave a job in which there is no life security even during peace times.
Stress, low morale, and denial of leave are the main reasons for Indian Armed Forces personnel to resign from the job. Similarly, armymen, when trapped in insurgency-hit areas and finding no way out prefer leaving army for greener pastures. According to observers, the economic benefits on the civil side are the major factors forcing Armed Forces personnel to quit the job. According to an ex-Army Chief the problem of shortage of officers can not be solved until the government remove “stagnation at the middle level and thus improve promotion opportunities of the officers, close to that of civil and police services; improve opportunities for the officers to be able to spend more time with their families; re-establish social status and warrant of precedence of the armed forces officers at the center and state levels; compensate adequately the increased level of personal risk and hardships in the field areas; bridge salary and compensation gap between the private sector and government services, to the extent possible”.
The Indian Armed Forces no longer fascinate the people as career. The Indian Army is currently facing a crisis and it is short of over 11,000 officers from the rank of captain to major. Despite campaigns like “Be an army man: Be a winner of life” the armed forces continue to face a shortage of officers. Officer’s shortage in Indian Armed Forces is acute now and seriously affecting the army, in quantity as well as quality.