Armed forces short of 14,000 officers: Antony


New Delhi : India’s armed forces are short of a staggering 14,165 officers and “several steps” are being taken to fill the vacancies, parliament was informed Thursday.

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At the same time, 277 Indian Air Force (IAF) pilots were permitted to retire early in the last four years, Defence Minister A.K. Antony said in a written reply in the Lok Sabha.

Giving details of the shortages, Antony said the Indian Army faced a deficiency of 11,238 officers against an authorised strength of 46,615.

The IAF was short of 1,528 officers against a requirement of 8,821, while the Indian Navy faced a deficiency of 1,399 officers against a sanctioned strength of 8,821, the minister added.

Detailing the corrective measures being taken, Antony said all officers, including those on a short service commission (SSC), were now eligible to be promoted to the ranks of captain, major and lieutenant colonel and equivalent after two, six and 13 years of service respectively.

This apart, the tenure of SSC officers had been extended to 14 years in all three services.

“The armed forces have undertaken a sustained projection and publicity campaign to create awareness among the youth on the advantages of taking up a challenging and satisfying career,” the minister pointed out.

These measures included candidate-friendly recruitment procedures, awareness campaigns, and motivational lectures in schools and colleges, Antony added.

In reply to another question, he said 16 pilots had been granted early retirement in 2007 alone.

Earlier, 128 pilots had retired prematurely in 2004, 77 in 2005 and 56 in 2006, Antony stated.

“Certain domestic problems relating to inheritance of property; need to look after ailing parents, family business; serious illness of wife requiring officer’s presence at home; possibility of break up of conjugal life if the officer continues in service” were some of the grounds on which the officers had sought to leave the service early, the minister said.

The IAF has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Air India allowing officers above 54 years of age to join the flag carrier.

“This is to facilitate a second career option to the retiring officers and also to reduce the requirement of expatriate pilots for the national career,” the minister maintained.

The exit of such pilots would not affect the IAF’s operational status since “these officers would have already served their useful tenure as pilots. (Such) officers are generally those who are superannuating within a year or so.

“Hence, this would neither lead to shortage of pilots in the IAF nor (would) any loss (be) incurred on their training,” Antony added.