Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Learning from History? Or Do we?


The Telegraph

Saturday, October 26, 2002

Army mulls VRS for senior officers


New Delhi, Oct. 25: Army commanders’ meeting here this week have revived a proposal to create a new rank among its Generals and a formula for a voluntary retirement scheme for officers from Colonel upwards.

Last year, too, the army had sounded out the government on an internal committee (known as the Bagga Commission) recommendation to create the rank of Colonel-General, but the Ministry of Defence had practically shelved the idea.

A discussion on “greening” of the army, which is listed in the agenda for the bi-annual commanders’ conference, which concludes tomorrow.

The suggestion for a voluntary retirement scheme flows from a perceived need to allow superseded officers to opt out of service with a financial cushion.

Supercession usually begins from the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel upwards. The army has been pointing out that promotions are tardier in comparison with the civil and the police services.

If the proposal for a voluntary retirement scheme is accepted, an estimated 2,000 senior officers would have the option of leaving the service with “golden handshakes” of Rs 10 to Rs 20 lakh.

The retirement scheme will also pave the way for younger officers to pick up senior ranks.

The army top brass has also noted that though several of the officers are used for United Nations peacekeeping duties, they often do not enjoy the seniority their years of service merit, because many other armies have ranks — such as Colonel-General — that are deemed to be higher than Lieutenant-General.

The proposal to create the rank of “Colonel-General” — between the ranks of Lieutenant -General and General — is being reconsidered after it was first made by the Bagga Committee.

Lieutenant General H.S. Bagga retired as Director-General (Manpower planning and organisation) in the Army Headquarters.

During the commanders’ conference, as usual, the top brass has formed promotion boards for ranks from Brigadier upwards. There are more than 11,000 officer vacancies in the army.

Among the officer cadre of the army, there are presently an estimated 200 Major Generals and 60 Lt. Generals.

The Bagga Committee has proposed that the rank of Colonel-General be conferred on army commanders — general officers commanding the six army commands — and principal staff officers in the Army Headquarters — a total of about 24 posts.
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Outlook Magazine: 12 May 2008

Source: http://www.outlookindia.com/printarticle.aspx?237397

‘There's no officer shortage, just too many non-combat seniors’

With Caps On
  • Cadet intake into IMA and NDA is at an all-time high
  • Experts say shortage of 11,000 officers is of the army's own making
  • It has created a top-heavy structure with superseded and aging Lt colonels and colonels stagnating in peace stations
  • 3,000 officers are looking for premature retirement. The army has no exit policy.
  • The Air Force has 3,050 pilots when it only requires 1,700 of them.
  • Yet it claims a shortage of 1,528 officers.
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Two weeks ago, Union defence minister A.K. Antony stood up in Parliament to answer once again a question that's been repeatedly raised for well over a decade now. Is the Indian army, navy and the air force short of officers? The answer has always been yes. Successive defence ministers have reiterated on the floor of the House that there is a serious shortfall in the forces.

But on April 16, Antony threw up a surprise. He told Parliament the Indian Military Academy (IMA), which trains officers for the Indian army, was actually running beyond its full capacity. While it can train 1,650 cadets, the IMA is currently training 1,683 cadets. Similarly, the National Defence Academy (NDA) "has also been functioning at full capacity except for the first batch of 2008,” said Antony. The subtext of his statement was that there are enough aspirants to join the forces. So if the training academies are running to full capacity, is the "officer shortfall" real?

Lt General H.S. Bagga, ex-director-general of personnel who spent eight years studying the problem and wrote the seminal Bagga Commission report, feels it "isn't real.” "Look at it this way," says Bagga. "Every year, I am taking in nearly 1,600 officers. Most of them are permanent commission officers while some are short service. If I could reverse this and make the majority of them short service and a core group permanent, then my shortages disappear."

What he means is if there are fewer permanent commission officers who serve a minimum of 20 years, then the army would not be clogged with too many non-combat seniors—the operative phrase being 'non-combat'. This would also be better use of resources, facilitating more intake of younger officers for combat zones.

Most of the perceived shortage, says Bagga, is at the 'combat level', from lieutenants, majors and lieutenant colonels. "With a large number of officers stagnating at the higher ranks, my force is getting older and the young ones don't have avenues to grow. This is the problem. Give them an honourable exit policy after 8-10 years of service and you'll see this problem disappear." Bagga's study was amalgamated into the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee report that gave faster promotions to officers. But many feel had Bagga's original recommendations been implemented in toto, there would not have been this so-called shortage.

One aspect of being permanently commissioned is that an officer cannot quit even if he is superseded. Army HQ sources say there are nearly 3,000 officers at the levels of lieutenant colonels and colonels waiting to quit as they have been superseded. But the army is reluctant to release them. It's worried that a revamp of manpower policy would mean trimming its top-heavy hierarchy too.

Simply put, higher the officer strength, the more posts for brigadiers and generals. Currently, there are 75 major generals and 64 Lt Generals which, incidentally, is projected to go up to 204 and 84 respectively. This is very high for any army.

Defence analysts like K. Subrahmanyam have been calling for a smaller army with better teeth-to-tail ratio (more fighting men as compared to logistic support). Agrees former director general, military operations (DGMO), Lieutenant General V. Raghavan. He feels the army's lopsided manpower policies have created this "artificial" shortage. "Let's have a core group of permanent commissioned officers and a larger group of short service commission officers. These younger officers will lead the platoons, conduct operations, grow in service. And you can dilute the standards of intake for short service commission officers to improve intake. You don't have to train every one of them to become a field marshal!"

Raghavan also points out the danger of creating a situation similar to what happened after the Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 when a sudden influx of officers led to severe anomalies in subsequent years. "As these officers were promoted, we ended up having so many senior officers ready to command battalions, which simply weren't there."

The army says its 'operational' shortfall hovers around 11,000 (in an overall requirement of 46,616). This, say experts, is of its own making—a situation has been created where there is a glut at the Lt Colonel rank and above. At this level, if an officer does not get promoted, he stagnates for 12 years. He becomes ineligible to serve in a battalion and the army, facing a crunch where it matters, is stuck with redundancy higher up.

Bagga's report listed five exit policies. This, he says, would ensure that more men join the army, serve 10 years and leave, while a core group continues to grow to occupy the senior ranks. Points out Bagga: "I listed out five exit slabs — (1) study leave without any clause to serve further, (2) an opportunity to take up a university course at the army's cost; (3) a golden handshake or (4) allowing them to appear for any civil service exam in their 13th year of service; or (5) tie up with corporates to absorb those superseded."

Like the army, the IAF too claims it has a shortage of 1,528 officers. Asks former air chief S. Krishnaswamy: "Where is the shortage if your squadron strength is steadily falling and your number of pilots are going up?" A quick back-of-the-envelope calculation by him shows "one of the worst pilot-to-cockpit ratios in the world.” Air Force documents say the number of fighter squadrons comprising 14 aircraft each will go down from the present 30 to 28 by 2015. Points out Krishnaswamy: "The best thing to do is to let people go after 10 years of service. It's the only way we can make things work. By holding back officers forcibly we are creating an artificial shortage at the cost of operational preparedness."

The air force has a pilot strength of 3,050 pilots. This is way above the 1,700 pilots the force requires. "We need to seriously consider options to run our forces in the most economical manner. Otherwise, subsequent budgets will not be able to support our manpower," says Krishnaswamy. Presently, pilots are being sent on deputation to fly state government aircraft. Jammu & Kashmir, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu are among the states which are served by IAF pilots.

The world over, modern militaries are going in for a leaner and meaner force. But the Indian army is still dependent on conservative World War II templates, especially when it comes to manpower recruitment and deployment. With a fat midriff and a heavy top, the army and the air force has flab which it owes to itself to get rid off immediately.

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Measures To Attract And Retain Talent In The Indian Army

Source: http://www.claws.in/index.php?action=details&m_id=175&u_id=5

Dy Director, CLAWS

The Centre for Land Warfare Studies (CLAWS) organised a one day seminar on “Measures to Attract and Retain Talent in the Indian Army” on Monday, 25 Aug 2008 at CLAWS seminar hall. The Keynote Address was delivered by Lt Gen Thomas Mathew, PVSM, AVSM, Adjutant General. The seminar was attended by a large number of serving officers and members of the strategic community.
The seminar was chaired by Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi, PVSM, AVSM, VSM (Retd). The panelists included Lt Gen KR Rao, AVSM, VSM, DG MP & PS, Lt Gen HS Bagga, PVSM, AVSM (Retd) and Maj Gen Surjit Singh, AVSM, VSM (Retd).

Keynote Address
While delivering the Keynote Address, the AG said that it is now realised by the government that addressing deficiencies in the army is not a problem only of the Army but it is now a national problem and needs to be addressed at the highest level. A large number of studies have been undertaken in the past to find a solution to this national problem. There has been some degree if success in the implementation of these studies. Yet there has been a steady decline in the intake and deficiencies have continued to rise since 2004. This can be attributed to the opening up of the economy and the resultant lucrative job market for young people in the corporate world. He said that, Army Headquarters has formulated a three-pronged strategy to address the deficiencies of officers in the lower ranks. This three-pronged approach consists mainly of in-house measures so that the service becomes more attractive. The salient points are:
  • Have a small core of permanent commissioned officers while having a large support base of short service commissioned officers or SSCOs. The SSCOs will be given an easy exit policy with the option of two years study leave at government expense. They will also be given assured admission to a post graduate college on release and also made members of the Ex-servicemen Contributory Health Scheme (ECHS).
  • Make in service intakes such as Special Commission Officers (SCOs) and Special List Officers (PC SL), more attractive by refining the schemes and also provide promotions up to the rank of Col for SCOs and Maj Gen for PC SL officers. 
  • Improve the 10+2 Entry Scheme by carrying out SSB for students while they are still in class XI, and their medical when they are in class XII. Thereafter their  graduation will be sponsored by the government and they will join as short service  commissioned officers both for the technical and non-technical streams. He added that while there would be non-UPSC entrance exam for technical streams, a UPSC entrance exam would still be held for non-technical streams. 
At the end of the address, the AG said that while the above measures are under active consideration of the Ministry of Defence, he would welcome suggestions for further measures that need to be taken to improve the large deficiencies in the officer cadre of the Indian Army. 

Panel Discussion

Lt Gen KR Rao, AVSM, VSM, DG MP & PS:-  While giving his presentation, the DG MP & PS brought out that despite savvy marketing strategies, the best MNCs today are facing challenges in attracting and retaining top quality talent. In fact, every Army in the world today is facing a talent crunch and wars in Iraq, Afghanistan have stretched the US, UK and EU armies to breaking point. To enlist one soldier, the US is contacting 120 young people today. He also highlighted the evolution of the officer cadre in the Indian Army from the Kings Commission in 1918 to the establishment of the Indian Military Academy in 1932 with 470 Indian officers passing out of IMA in 1939 as against 4000 British officers. Ever since then, the cadre strength has gone up. But the officer cadre has been deficient ever since independence as the size of the Indian Army has grown exponentially. He also highlighted the reasons for continued deficiency even despite large scale public relations campaigns as under:
 The career in the Army has become increasingly unpopular due to the fact that:
  •   The status of Army officers has steadily declined over the years.
  •   The Army Officers poor career progression opportunities, which are coupled with early retirement age.
  •   Frequent postings, low emoluments, attractiveness of the corporate world and an unsettled life coupled with higher risks make the service more   unpopular.
  •  An archaic exit policy that gives a feeling akin to being bonded labour has become a barrier for fresh entries.
  •  SSCO entry continues to be unattractive as there are no incentives for those leaving after completion of their short service commissions.
  •  Exponential increase in force levels that has been coupled with large number of officers seeking pre-mature retirement.
The deficiency in the officer cadre has led to ills such as lower morale and motivation, more burden on JCOs and NCOs who are not trained to lead and hence a decline in the officer-soldier ratio. This has resulted in lower organisational efficiency. 
 The DG MP & PS also recommended a three-pronged national approach that needs to undertaken to address the officer deficiency by 2020. The three prongs which have been identified are:
  •  Better pay and perks.
  •  Improve intake into training institutions.
  •  Carry out in-house measures to make service in the army more attractive by reviewing policies and refining incentives. 
He brought out a futuristic cadre profile of intake where efforts would be made to popularise both regular intake and improve SSCO, SCO and PC (SL) entries in the Army. He said that while the intake to NDA would remain the same, it is proposed to reduce the intake of direct entries; ACC and UES from 640 to 110 a year. At the same time it is proposed to increase all SSCO, SCO, PC (SL) entries from the present 850 per year to 1600 per year. He further added that since the 10 + 2 Technical Entry Scheme has so far been the most popular hence it is proposed to increase the intake from this entry from 170 a year to 350 a year.

He also added that to make the Short Service Commissioned Officer (SSCO) entry more popular there is a proposal to implement the following:
  •  Lumpsum grant of Rs 10/14 lacs on release.
  •  Two years professional enhancement leave after eight years of service.
  •  Concessions for appearing in Civil Services entrance exams.
  •  Lateral absorption in PSUs/CPMFs/CPOs.
All the above proposals have been recommended by the AV Singh Committee as well. DGMP & PS gave further details of the methodology and refinements that will be carried out once the proposals are agreed to by the Ministry of Defence.

Lt Gen HS Bagga: -      During his presentation Lt Gen HS Bagga stressed that a career in the Army should not be taken as the sole career of one’s life. An army officer should be allowed to use this career as a stepping stone to move on to civilian life after having acquired the requisite skills to opt for a second career. He further added that the steepness of the pyramid for higher promotions has had a crippling effect on the attractiveness of the Army. He drew a comparison between Indian Army and Indian Police Service regarding cadre improvement from 1973 onwards. He said that while in 1973 the IPS had only one IGP in a state, who was equivalent to a Maj Gen, by 1996 all states had a DGP equivalent to an Army Commander and an additional DGP who is equivalent to a Lt Gen and the number of IGPs is now very high. He also brought out the disparity with civil services where only 0.43% officers make it to Maj Gen in the army and 21.4% make it to joint secretary in the civil services. He highlighted the major recommendations of the AV Singh committee report:
  •  Early promotion of battalion and brigade commanders to maintain a young profile in command.
  •  Time based promotion to rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
  •  Time scale Colonel at 26 years of service.
  •  Minimum of Brigadier’s pay to all officers in the last year of service.
  •  Creation of an additional rank of Colonel General.
  •  In service training of officers for second career.
  •  VRS to officers overlooked for promotion.
  •  Increase In select rank vacancies as under :
        Additional Vacancies 
  •  Colonel General         88
  •  Lieutenant General    20
  •  Major General           75
  •  Brigadier                  222
  •  Colonel                  1484
But so far only time scale promotions up to the rank of Lt Col and 750 additional vacancies for Colonels have been implemented.
He summarised additional recommendations that need to be implemented:
  • There is a need for generating awareness programmes indicating the Army’s strength at a national level.
  • There should be a campaign for image building through National Cadet Corps, Branch Recruiting Organisations and media.
  • Intake in Sainik Schools/Military Schools should be improved.
  • States should be encouraged to run schools for preparing young people for Armed Forces.
  • Advertisements for the Armed Forces should show the “cost to company” and not merely the salary and allowances.
  • The Ministry of Defence must establish a separate cell to manage manpower related issues.
  • At the national level, the Army should be considered as a special service which is controlled by the MoD and not by the Department of Personnel and training (DoPT).
  • Salaries and allowances of Armed Forces should not be governed by a pay commission but by a permanent Pay Review Body that is established only for the armed forces.

Maj Gen Surjit Singh: - Having been associated with the 4th and 5th Central Pay Commissions (CPC), Maj Gen Surjit Singh said that even after a review of the 6th CPC recommendations there are several anomalies. He highlighted that all scales have been created for civil services and the military has been inserted in as a ‘force fit’. The creation of the Pay Band 3 and Pay Band 4 is an apparent ploy to divide the officer cadre into two classes. The other anomalies that were brought out are:
Stipend for officer cadets has not been given while civil service probationers are paid from the day their training starts. Even their seniority for service commences on the same day whereas for officers it starts on the day of commission which is four years after a cadet joins NDA.
The officer cadre should be in the highest pay band and not two distinct categories. However, the civil servants have been able to convince the government that if a Brigadier gets more pay than a joint secy (if number of years of service is taken as a criterion of pay) then civil control over the military will be diluted.

Army Commander’s salary has been pegged below that of a Director General of Police for the first time.
He brought out that since only 40% of the arrears are to be admitted in this financial year, detailed instructions should only be issued when all outstanding issues have been fully resolved. If anomalies can be resolved at a later stage, then anomalies can also be forestalled. A good pay structure should aim at equity and should not be one that leads to a sense of bitterness or a feeling of inequity.
He also laid stress on some non-pecuniary irritants that are detrimental to firstly attracting and then retaining talent in the Army. These are:-
  • A benign fear of getting superseded at each rank after the rank of Colonel.
  • Retirement ages being early an officer retires at a time when his children are either at a marriageable age or pursuing higher studies.
  • Resettlement avenues are limited and hence detrimental to young blood joining the Army.
  • Turbulence and separation from family is a common feature.
  • The service routine is repetitive and hence lacks growth. This is further stunted by mediocre leadership that snubs initiative.
  • To make matters worse, premature retirement applications are rejected on petty grounds amounting to ‘reverse conscription’, making the military a veritable mouse trap.
He made the following recommendations:-
  • Every officer must be imparted at least one skill or specialisation at service expense.
  • Industry should be motivated to employ Army officers.
  • Lateral movement of officers to Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs)/Central Police Organisations (CPOs)/Central Para Military Forces (CPMFs) must be implemented as recommended by the 6th CPC.
  • One rank one pension which is a long standing anomaly must be resolved at the earliest.


The following aspects emerged during the discussion:
  • Most politicians and bureaucrats in other countries undergo basic military training before they get into government. Even is India there should a provision for all IAS officers and those of attired central services to undergo training at NDA/IMA and serve an attachment of about five years in army units. This would give them a better understanding of what the Army is all about when they are in various ministries and at decision making levels.
  • Even if there is disparity in rank structure of the military and civil servants there should be parity of salaries at par with the number of years of service.
  • The proposal of carrying out SSB for students of class XI and medical in class XII for those who are selected coupled with a stipend for the entire duration of the students graduation will not be successful. This is due to the fact that there will be a big gap between the selection and joining and a number of students will fall prey to the lure of the corporate world in this duration.
  • The biggest advertisers for attracting talent in the Army are those who are already in service. Yet the percentage of sons of Army officers joining the Army is abysmal. There is a need for introspection with regard to this.
  • A number of self-imposed restrictions such as signing of five year bonds after long courses/UN assignments and three year residual service after study leave must be done away with. In any case it is seldom that officers ever get to do assignments post study leave commensurate with their specialisation.
The discussion and presentations were well received by all present. The seminar raised a number of positive suggestions that can be implemented to attract and retain talent in the Army.
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  1. Sir in my view we should not add one more rank col gen this will degrade Lt gen.need of the our is to reduce no.of ranks ltcol should be merged wid col n similarly brigadier wid maj gen.so that we will have better promotion prospects for all officers

    1. Sir, before we sacrifice ranks in order to have better promotion prospects, why not have a closer but wiser look at our promotion policies? Do the Army, Navy or Air Force Acts or Rules lay down a minimum number of years of service for promotions? Obviously, they don't that is why the time-frame of AVSC came into being and has not been legally challenged, to the best of my knowledge.

      How do the British Army (not it is not known as Royal Army), Royal Navy and Royal Air Force continue with the equivalent rank of 2nd Lt? Is it our belief that only a Lt (& equivalent)can handle assignments and duties that a 2nd Lt (& equivalent) did before the rank was abolished?

      And if the abolition of yet another rank is the solution for parity in pay etc, the day may not be far off when someone will suggest that we re-designate Armed Forces officers as Under Secretary, Dy Secy, Dir, JS, Addl Secy, Secy and etc.

      We need to keep our distinctiveness and take up career development, promotions, pay and pensions in a clearly thought out manner and not be blinkered in our approach.

    2. Well Said Sir!