NEW DELHI: "Be an Army man: Be a winner for life," ran the advertising campaign. But despite the plethora of glossy ads, the armed forces are still finding it extremely difficult to attract bright youngsters bitten by the MNC and IT bug.
Despite an "authorised strength" of 46,280 officers, the Army is making do with only around 34,000 at present. What makes matters worse is that most of these vacancies are in "the fighting element" of the three Services. In the Army, for instance, the major shortages are in the ranks of lieutenants, captains and majors, who actually lead the troops into battle.
Expressing grave concern at the nearly 28 per cent shortage of officers in the Army, a key parliamentary committee has asked the government to make the short service commission (SSC) more attractive for youngsters
"The prime reason for lack of response to the SSC is the bleak future which awaits trained and disciplined officers once they are discharged barely after five years of service, with no prospects whatsoever either in public or private sector," said the parliamentary standing committee on defence.
The government should immediately take some steps to improve the career prospects of SSC officers, it said. These could range from more promotional avenues for SSC officers in their cadre to reservation and lateral transfer to PSUs, railways and central para-military forces. Moreover, even officers who have served for five years should get "pro-rata pension".
The committee also expressed its unhappiness at the "very poor rate" of induction of NCC cadets into the armed forces. "Specialised training should be imparted to NCC cadets to develop their communication skills and leadership qualities so that they can face the Services Selection Board more confidently," it said.