Unable to woo enough officers to join its permanent ranks, the Indian Army has proposed to increase their intake under the Short Service Commission (SSC) cadre. It wants two SSC officers for every permanent officer.
The proposal, now with the defence minister, seeks to increase the proportion of SSC officers with respect to the permanent commissioned officers.
"The army has submitted the proposal to increase the intake of short service commissioned officers by making it more lucrative. The proposal is lying with the defence ministry," a senior armed forces official told IANS, requesting anonymity.
Currently, people who are not certain about committing to permanent positions in the army join under SSC and serve the army for five years. At the end of the period the officer is allowed to either opt for permanent commission, choose another five years of service or retire.
In contrast, an officer under permanent commission has to serve for 20 years.
The SSC acts as the support cadre to the regular cadre, which is twice its strength. The proposal seeks to reverse the proportion.
"According to an internal report the shortfall of 11,000 army officers would be bridged in 20 years. The proposal is to take two short service officers for every permanently commissioned officer. This will help make up the shortfall in due course without affecting the promotion aspects caused by the pyramidal structure of the army.
"In short the proposal is to increase the proportion of short service commissioned officers from the current one-third," the officer told IANS.
The army's sanctioned strength is 46,615 officers, but it has been facing a shortage of 11,238. For the world's fourth largest army middle-rung officers leaving for better-paying corporate sector jobs has been a constant problem.
The problem has been aggravated because the army is unable to get enough numbers to join its officer rank. The defence forces need 2,100 officers every year.
The army is now opening a second Officers Training Academy (OTA) at Gaya in Bihar. Set to house 500 cadets, the academy is scheduled to start functioning by the middle of the year.
However, in the existent OTA at Chennai the cadet intake has come down from 407 in 2008 to 315 in 2009, against an authorised strength of 700.
"The army has sought to make SSC more lucrative by increasing the number of serving years from five to 10. Another proposal is to give them a two-year study leave at the end of their service to help them find a better second career option," said the officer.
Now, the army is hoping the financial crisis in the corporate sector and the Sixth Pay Commission -- which has increased their salaries -- will help bring in many more officers to the armed forces.