Shortage of Army Officers in the Indian Army. Explained.

While the country applauds the actions of the defense forces on the borders, the citizens are largely unaware that each unit of the fighting and supporting arms of the Army are battling an acute shortage of officers. Indian military which has an onerous task of defending the country’s more than 15,000 kilometres long border and 7,500 kilometres long coastline is facing an acute shortage of officers. Indian military forces may be gaining firepower at a fast clip, but they surely are bereft of manpower. Against an authorized strength of 74,000 officers, the Army, Navy and Air Force currently have only 65,000, limiting their ability to run their operations efficaciously. This is a worrisome situation for the country that shares long boundaries with hostile neighbors and facing internal security challenges in border states in the north and northeast. Indian military forces have an onerous task of guarding the country’s borders stretching 15,106 kilometres and a 7,516 kilometres long coastline.

“There are three main causes: harsh service environment and everyday risk to life in the line of duty, pay and perks in the military and avenues for promotion are not as appealing as is the case with civil services and the third thing is the very attractive pay and package available in the corporate sector, these are the main reasons behind the shortage of officers,”

– Lt. General (retd) Rameshwar Yadav.

There are various methods of getting into the armed forces, starting from after Class XII in the NDA to the graduation level for the national academies and a host of other technical and non-technical entries. The entrance test for these officer-rank entries features a gruelling selection mechanism which culminates in a personality evaluation by services selection boards. Leadership traits are an important part of this evaluation. The pass percentage at the officer level is 2-5 per cent of the students who clear the written exam. After the selections, the trainees — generally referred to as ‘gentlemen cadets’ — undergo training at the elite academies, which develop them into leaders who are fit to take up the leadership role in combat and non-combat units. Those who are allotted the services are also made to undergo 1-2 years of attachment in the combat units, thus making them familiar with the operational environment. 

India which has 1.4 million active duty personnel in three branches of its military is surrounded by two hostile neighbors on its northern and western borders and has fought four wars with them and these border disputes with both Pakistan and China continue to seethe. As per the latest official data, the authorized strength of officers in Indian Army in March 2018 was 50,028. Even so, four months later, in July this year, there were only 42,734 officers. The shortage of 7,294 officers or 14.57% of the authorized strength. In case of Indian Navy, as on October 2018, there were only 9,925 naval officers against the authorized strength of 11,415 officers, this is a shortage of 1,457 officers in Indian Navy or 12.76%. It seems that among the three branches of Indian military, Indian Air Force is the only force that is able to attract the talent in a much better manner. As on 1st July 2018, Indian Air Force had 12,392 officers as against the authorized strength of 12,584 officers, a shortfall of just 192 officers or 1.52%. Indian armed forces have adopted several policies to fill the gap but they appear to be less than successful. Of late, the government has implemented several measures including increasing the allowances for difficult area posting but it has apparently been unsuccessful to attract the required talent.