Lack of stipend demoralising: NDA cadets

By Ritu Sharma, IANS,

Khadakvasla (Maharashtra) : The lack of a stipend for cadets of the National Defence Academy (NDA) here is proving to be demoralising for them – but there could be light at the end of the tunnel.

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Cadets joining the NDA, a premier joint services training institution, get Rs.1,000 as pocket money every month – but their parents deposit this with the academy. Against this, foreign cadets get $100 (Rs.4250) per month that is provided by their respective governments.

“Our parents deposit Rs.5,000 per semester which the NDA later pays to us in instalments of Rs.1,000 every month,” said an Indian cadet, who did not wish to be identified.

A cadet from Tajikistan, who has come to the NDA on a foreign exchange programme, told IANS he received Rs.4,250 monthly as pocket money through his country’s embassy.

In a bid to lure the best talent, the NDA has submitted a proposal to pay Rs.10,000 as a monthly stipend to its cadets. The proposal is currently with the defence ministry.

“We have submitted the proposal to the defence ministry. It has been taken well,” NDA commandant Air Marshal T.S. Randhawa said.

“Stipend to the cadets is as important as a soldier’s pay. Besides boosting their morale, it also shows that the organisation cares for them,” an army officer here said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

While the pocket money is an extra burden on the parents of the cadets, the paltry amount is not sufficient, they say.

“We are allowed to go to (nearby) Pune town on Sundays but with the kind of pocket money we are being given, we cannot afford to do so even twice a month,” a cadet said.

“Given today’s cost of living a stipend is very essential for us. When we have decided to serve the country, it is shameful to be a burden on our parents,” another cadet maintained.

The lack of a stipend is quite in contrast to what civil servants receive during their training period. Probationers of the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), for instance, get Rs.8,000 a month during their training period.

The NDA trains cadets for three years after which they opt for the army, the navy or the air force for further training before they are commissioned as officers.

With salaries and other benefits skyrocketing in the private sector, the NDA, not surprisingly, is facing a talent crunch with just 192 of the 300 cadets selected for the 119th course that began in January showing up.

This translates into a shortage of officers in the armed forces, which annually need 2,100 officers.

Against a sanctioned strength of 67,540, the armed forces are currently short of a staggering 14,264 officers.

Concerned by this, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, while addressing the passing out parade of the NDA’s 114th course May 31, said the government was taking steps to make a career in the armed forces more attractive.

“We in the government are aware of the tough conditions of service and other problems you face and have taken several measures to bring about improvements, including new accommodation facilities and liberalised leave rules.

“I am sure that you will find that the quality of life you all will enjoy is materially better than what your seniors experienced during their early days,” Antony told the graduating cadets.