No compulsory military service: Antony

March 3rd, 2008 - 8:53 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, March 3 (IANS) The defence ministry Monday brought the curtain down on a raging debate on introducing compulsory military service to address a severe shortage of over 14,000 officers in the armed forces. “The government does not propose to make military service compulsory in the country,” Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

The issue has generated much heat since the Indian Army chief, Gen. Deepak Kapoor, suggested in January that the draft “could be an avenue” if the armed forces are unable to recruit adequate numbers of officers.

“Personally, I don’t think it will come to that stage. But yes, should the need arise, it could be an avenue,” Kapoor had told reporters here.

Admitting to a shortfall of 11,200 in the officer cadre, Kapoor said: “The fact is that we are not getting the right material.

“We have to take youth from the national pool in a situation where the corporate world is paying much more. At the same time, we do not wish to lower our standards,” the army chief maintained.

In this context, he noted the “useful interaction” with the head of the Sixth Pay Commission that is currently engaged in the process of drawing up new pay scales for government employees.

With a sanctioned strength of 46,615 officers, the 1.12 million-strong Indian Army is not the only one to face a shortage of what Kapoor terms the “right material”.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) faces a shortfall of 1,565 officers against its authorised strength of 12,128 while the Indian Navy is short of 1,461 officers against a sanctioned strength of 8,797.

Detailing the steps taken to fill the vacant posts, Antony has told parliament that all officers, including those holding short service commissions, were now eligible to hold the substantive ranks of captain, major and lieutenant colonel after two, six and 13 years of service respectively.

Time scale promotion to colonel and equivalent ranks after 26 years of service has also been introduced, while the tenure of short service commission officers has been extended from 10 to 14 years.

“The armed forces have undertaken a sustained image promotion and publicity campaign to create awareness among the youth on the advantages of taking up a challenging and satisfying career,” Antony said.

“Candidate-friendly recruitment procedures to attract more candidates and a focussed publicity drive in various institutions to attract potential candidates have been undertaken,” he added.

Awareness campaigns, participation in career fairs and exhibitions, advertisements in the print and electronic media, and motivational lectures in schools and colleges are some of the other measures taken, the minister stated.

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