The National Defence Academy at Khadakvasla, an entry-level institution in the Indian Army, has 300 vacancies every year; the number of cadets who got selected this year: 190. Number of vacancies at Indian Military Academy in Dehradun: 250; number of gentlemen cadets who joined this year: 86. In other words, the world’s largest voluntary army in the world is no longer attracting able-bodied young men for a career in the armed forces.
The tough life, the frequent transfers, poor career progression, and the greater perks in life outside are all being attributed for the shortfall. To combat the talent crunch—the Army is said to be facing a shortage of 11,238 officers—the Indian army chief General Deepak Kapoor has hinted that compulsory military service, like in Israel among other countries, may be considered if the present trend is to be checked and reversed.
Questions: Is the Army’s manpower shortage real? Is conscription a good idea? Are Indians in the consumption era willing to put nation before self? Will it work? Should the Army try to woo the best and the brightest with better pay and career prospects rather than requiring all young Indians to serve in the Army? In a democracy which has maintained a health distance from the armed forces, could compulsory military service end up militarising the country, with disastrous consequences like in Pakistan?
Also read: CHURUMURI POLL: Combat roles for women?