Recession’s flip side: Army retaining its officers

February 22nd, 2009 - 3:33 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 22 (IANS) The economic slump has a silver lining for the officer-strapped Indian Army. Officers planning to seek premature retirement are having second thoughts and those who had applied have begun withdrawing their applications.

In comparison to the situation some months ago, when many army officers were leaving the force for greener pastures in the corporate world, now one official is withdrawing his application for premature retirement every third day, according to army sources.

“In the past six months 65 officers have withdrawn their applications for premature retirement,” a senior army official told IANS, requesting anonymity.

The army’s sanctioned strength is 46,615 officers, but it faces a shortage of 11,238 officers. The problem got aggravated as about 3,000 officers sought premature retirement in the last three years, with most moving to the lucrative corporate sector.

Now, the Indian Army is hoping the financial crisis will help in restoring the balance and bring in many more to the armed forces that is facing a shortage of middle-rung officers.

“In 2004, 430 officers applied for premature retirement. Of these, only 290 were accepted. In 2007, the number increased to a staggering 1,260,” the official said.

Nearly 1,200 applications were also received last year. According to army officials, the number would have crossed 1,500 had the officers not been waiting for the Sixth Pay Commission.

“The trend started reversing after September 2008. As the global economy was hit by recession and the private companies started laying off employees, the army personnel who were planning to join telecom, aviation and management firms started doing a re-think,” the official added.

“Since then no application seeking premature retirement has been received and every third day one officer is withdrawing his application,” the official added.

According to Indian Air Force (IAF) sources, no application has been received for premature retirement since October. Last year more than 280 IAF officials had applied for retirement. The exodus of officers from the Indian Navy has also stopped.

The trend of defence personnel seeking premature retirement was on the rise with the army receiving 535 applications in 2005, 810 in 2006, and 1,265 in 2007. The defence ministry’s approval depends on the need of the armed forces. The army approved the voluntary retirement of 365 officers in 2005, 464 in 2006 and 608 in 2007.

Speaking ahead of the Army Day Jan 16, army chief General Deepak Kapoor had hoped that the recession might result in more youngsters opting for the armed forces as career.

“With the recession in the civilian side, the demand for a career in the army in the service of the nation may go up. Besides, we are taking a series of steps so that people do not leave the army and more numbers join it,” Kapoor had said.

The army chief had said that the Sixth Pay Commission, which raised salaries for all government employees including those in the armed forces, has also helped in bringing down the number of officers seeking premature retirement.

“A little bit of hope. Post the Sixth Pay Commission announcement, there is somewhat of a declining trend in the number of people leaving the army. I see it as a happy augury,” Kapoor had said.

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