Defence Minister A K Antony on Monday said that Armed Forces are losing personnel to the corporate world due to the availability of lucrative alternative career avenues and difficult service conditions in the forces.
On Monday, Antony told the Lok Sabha that the ‘availability of multiple and lucrative alternative career avenues with the growth of nation’s economy’ was one of the major reasons for the Army, Navy and the Air Force facing manpower shortage.
As a result, the fighting units of the Armed Forces have just one-third of officers strength to lead the troops in the battlefield.
In a written reply to the queries, Antony said the Army’s manpower level were short by 10,100 officers as on July 1, 2012, and 32,431 soldiers on October 1, 2012, the Navy’s shortage was 1,996 officers and 14,310 sailors as on September 30 this year, and the Air Force 962 officers and 7,000 airmen on December 1 this year. “Accretion in the force level from time to time” was also contributing to the gaps, he said, adding that stringent selection criteria and difficult service conditions coupled with perceived high degree of risk too were adding to the problem.
The Army has a sanctioned strength of over 47,000 officers and 10 lakh other ranks, the Navy has about 8,000 officers and 80,000 sailors, and the Air Force over 12,000 officers and 1.3 lakh airmen.
Since 2009, the Army has had 3,996 personnel retiring prematurely, while the Navy and the Air Force have had 638 and 2,976 personnel going out on premature retirement, Antony said.
In 2008, the Army had carried out an internal crystal-gazing in which they had projected to the government that it will take over 20 years of best efforts for them to fill up the vacancies. At that time, the Army headquarters had said that the projection was conditional.
For the manpower gaps to be narrowed, the government needed to increase training capacities in academies, while keeping the rate of exit of officers low.
Since then, the government has opened a new Officers Training Academy (OTA) at Gaya in Bihar, to help train 150 newly-recruited short service officers, on the lines of the OTA in Chennai. In view of the competition from the corporate in terms of higher pay and perks, the Defence Ministry had in 2008 hiked the salaries of the Armed Forces personnel as per the Sixth Central Pay Commission recommendations ‘to make Armed Forces jobs attractive for youngsters’.