No dilution of standards for officers: defence ministry


New Delhi : Caught on the back foot for suggesting a “one time” dilution of standards to fill up vacancies of officers in the armed forces, the defence ministry Saturday clarified that it was merely “seeking opinion” of the three services on measures to check the acute shortage of officers.

Support TwoCircles

In a letter written by special secretary P.K. Rastogi to chiefs of the three armed forces April 3, the ministry gave 10-point suggestion to meet the acute crunch in manpower.

“The letter was written in response to the discussion in Rajya Sabha March 4 regarding ‘Gap between requirement of officers and recruitment in armed forces’,” a defence ministry statement said here.

Noting that measures like re-employment of retired officers, image projection campaigns since 1997 and recent implementation of the A.V. Singh Committee recommendations have not made any difference to the situation, the letter suggested points to counter the problem.

“The services may consider the feasibility of conducting a special drive to fill up the vacancies by giving a one-time dispensation in the QRs (Qualitative Requirements),” the letter said.

However, the defence ministry Saturday clarified that these are not the views of the ministry but was only “an effort to elicit the views of the forces” on the issues raised at different forums.

“It is pointed out time and again by the services that large number of candidates (applying for officers’ cadre) do not meet the QRs. Do the services have any plan to revisit their parameters of QRs?,” the letter asks considering that 95 percent of the candidates are rejected at the interview level.

The armed forces have been maintaining that there is no dearth of people applying for recruitment as soldiers, with nearly 10,000 to 15,000 applications received for every vacancy.

For the officer corps, however, there is an immense shortage of candidates with the right aptitude and skills.

The defence forces need 2,100 new officers annually. But against a sanctioned strength of 67,540 officers the armed forces are currently short of a staggering 14,264 officers.

The ministry attributed the shortage of middle-rung officers to the “socio-economic environment and resultant changes in career preference, better employment opportunities in other sectors” which is beyond its control.

The problem has been further aggravated with nearly 3,000 officers seeking premature retirement from the army alone in the past three years, with most of them moving to the more lucrative corporate sector.

“As per the extant guidelines, officers are allowed to go in case of supercession or on extreme compassionate ground. The present guidelines need to be revisited,” the letter had suggested.

The letter had also suggested that a comprehensive study should be entrusted to a reputed agency or consultant, if required, to in depth as to why this deficiency is not getting bridged for so long.