India: Army chief starts debate on conscription - to get pay rise for officers

India's chief of the army Kapoor hinted on 14 January 2008 on the possibilty of conscription to solve the shortage of officers in the Indian army. He said: "If things don't improve, the government may have to take a view on it." However, he also said that "we have not come to that stage yet".

According to official figures, the Indian army is facing a shortage of 11,238 officers, against a sanctioned strength of 46,615 officers - a staggering 25% shortfall. And it's not the army alone that is confronted with a dearth of officer corps. The much-smaller Indian Air Force is 1,565 officers short of its sanctioned strength of 12,128, and the navy is short 1,461 officers of its optimal strength of 8,797.

However, minister of state for defence M M Pallam Raju declared on 18 January that the government has "no immediate plans" to go for conscription despite the three Services finding it difficult to attract youngsters to join their ranks.

Rather than wanting conscription, it is more likely that the statement is aimed at a high pay rise. The timing of Kapoor’s comment on conscription is significant. It has come ahead of the submission of the report by the Sixth Pay Commission, which is reviewing salaries and perks of central government employees and defense personnel.

 The armed forces, incidentally, are demanding a hefty 400 to 450% hike in salaries from the amounts fixed by the 5th Pay Commission, which came into force from January 1996.

Sources: Times of India, 15 January 2008, Asia Times, 19 January 2008, Times of India, 19 January 2008