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Ready for some sea thrill?

They guard the Indian waters and are among the country’s most charismatic individuals. Vimal Chander Joshi reports on officers of the Indian Navy.

education Updated: Jun 20, 2012 17:40 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Commander Abhijit V Joshi, an Indian Navy officer, loves scuba-diving and skydiving. He also revels in the thrill of commanding a naval ship in adverse weather conditions.

He shares a strong bond with the crew members of his ship, many of whom have become his friends for life. As the commanding officer, Joshi takes the entire responsibility of the ship. Besides navigation, he also manages logistic support and technical details. The best part? The job leaves him wanting more.

After 19 years in the Navy, this officer still finds enough adrenaline rush in the job to satisfy his “never-ending” appetite for thrill. “We are trained to manage, motivate and lead the crew on-board state-of-the-art warships. As we face difficult situations (together), a strong bond of comradeship forms with our fellow officers and also with the sailors whom we command,” says Joshi.

The primary responsibility of Indian Navy officers is to protect the Indian seas from foreign intrusions. In peace times, they do mock drills, carry out anti-piracy operations and monitor international trade through water channels. “We are also deployed on shore to provide relief in case of a calamity (in India or a neighbouring country),” adds Joshi.

The job has formidable challenges, as the sea never remains the same — weather gods can spell disaster anytime. Then, everyday resources must be stretched to their limit.

“At times, four people share one bucket of water in a day. You have to be always ready for all kinds of hardships and compromises,” says Commander PVS Satish, Navy spokesperson.

Those who become executive (non-technical) officers in the Navy can rise to the level of commanding officer, while others perform roles in technical areas, logistics and education that are also important. Women can only join in short-service commission.

The existing design of the ships do not offer the necessary facilities for women to live on-board for long duration, so they are not posted on the ships. “A time shall come when women will serve on ships,” says Rear Admiral Ajit Kumar P. “We undergo the same training that men do and, according to me, working in logistics is also satisfying, as we provide the essentials to make a ship sail,” says Lieutenant Radha Singh. Though the women do not sail, they “spend some time on the ship to become familiar with the seas”.

Singh is an infotech engineer and joined the Navy after getting her BE degree from Rajiv Gandhi Technical University. She had other job opportunities but chose the Navy over a corporate job “for the draws”. She explains, “Here, I do mountaineering and participate in marathons, along with handling my usual infotech functions.”

Besides working on a ship or on shore, an officer in the Indian Navy flies an aircraft, too, if he is in the aviation wing. Pilot training is first given by the Air Force and then by the Naval Academy.

These pilots have to learn to land planes on warships that function as aircraft carriers.

Those who join the aviation wing, the submarine cadre or the marcos (marine commandos) cadre, get a higher allowance — Rs 4,000-9,000 extra per month — for their hardships. A submarine officer has to survive on less than a small mug of water for the entire day, while officers in other cadres like technical, instructional and sea-going have the facilities to convert sea water into potable water. Though the thrills and perks are many, around one-third of all the positions in the officer cadre are vacant — the selection criteria are so stringent that very few people make it past the final stage. In February this year, a youth hunt named ‘Mission Navy’ was launched to pick just five young Indians who would be entitled to spend a few days on a Navy ship.

This drew 50,000 aspirants and Chaitanya Datla came out on top. She says, “Though I spent only one month (on board), the time was memorable. I broke through all my limitations.” The management graduate was offered a job in logistics, but chose to work with TCS if she could not be on a ship. However, her stint fuelled a strong desire: “I wish I could also work with the Indian Navy.”

What's it about?
An Indian Navy officer works and fights on sea. He plays a vital part in the complex system that manages a warship and also uses the ship as an instrument of tactical warfare. An officer is trained in specialisations like anti-submarine warfare, navigation, communications, gunnery, logistics, diving and hydrography. One could also opt for the aviation or submarine arm. There are some ancillary branches where an officer works as an electrical engineer, legal officer or naval architect

Clock Work
6 am: Physical training in a group
6.30 am: Preparation and briefing for exercises of the day and general ship
maintenance, including upkeep of hygiene and habitability
7.30 am: Breakfast
8.30 am: Tactical exercises, weapon firings and drills, seamanship evolutions, flying
operations, manoeuvres etc. and a 30-minute tea break
12.30 pm: Lunch
1.30 pm: Tactical exercises and drills continue for a few more hours
6.30 pm: Dinner
7 pm: Night safety rounds
7.30 pm: Generally a movie is screened during this time on the ship’s central video

The payoff
After the Sixth Pay Commission, a sub-lieutenant’s pay band is now Rs 15,600-39,100, which remains that for the next two ranks (lieutenant and lieutenant commander). It goes up to Rs 37,400-67,000 at the rank of commander and above. At the helm of a ship, the salary is Rs 80,000. Every officer gets some allowances and perks — technical allowance, submarine allowance, sea-going allowance, diving allowance, government housing, insurance cover of Rs 30 lakh and several other facilities

Ability to withstand mental and physical stress
. Leadership qualities and clarity of thought
. A fighting spirit and firm determination
. An undying passion for the sea and ships

How do i get there?
Primarily, there are two entry points — the National Defence Academy (for 10+2) and the Combined Defence Services Examination (for graduates). In total, there are around 27 gateways through which you can be a Navy officer in one of the cadres — general service, submarine, engineering, logistics, law, aviation (pilot/observer), hydro, ATC (air traffic control) etc.

For all these entry gateways, you must have finished at least 10+2 with physics and maths, while PCM with 70 per cent is mandatory for the engineering branch (tech entry in permanent commission). If you are a postgraduate with more than 50 per cent marks, you can join the education branch. There are entry points for law graduates and commerce graduates also.

For all the above-mentioned openings, there are permanent and short-service commissions. Age limit for any entry point depends on the type of intake.

For more details, log on to
or call 011-23010151

Institutes & urls
Officers who come through the NDA join the Naval Academy after graduation. Others join the academy directly. The newly opened Naval Academy in Ezhimala, Kerala, has a sprawling campus of 2,452 acres, with 41 state-of-the-art labs, a stadium and a watermanship training centre. The academy is equipped to run four-year engineering programmes and all cadets will get a BTech degree from now on, unlike the BSc degree awarded so far.

For details, visit

Pros & Cons
You get a vast exposure — you can fly a plane and navigate a ship or work on submarines
. A lot of fun-filled activities like mountaineering, scuba-diving, parasailing and water sports. Sometimes, the Navy also sends expeditions to Mount Everest and Antarctica
. The money is good and you are also entitled to various allowances
. You may have to wait for a long time (sometimes the period extends to a few years) before you get an accommodation every time you get a new posting

Mature heads on young shoulders

A senior officer of the Indian Navy sheds light on the challenges of the job

What kind of young men and women do you look for?
They should be physically and mentally fit, have courage, patriotism and also academic brilliance. Our stringent training ensures that whosoever passes out of the Naval Academy is a physically strong, courageous person with the technical skills to handle state-of-the-art ships and aircraft.

For an officer, how important is technical knowledge?
Quite important. The Indian Navy is technologically advanced and we encourage our officers to upgrade their skills as the need arises.

We send our officers for higher studies, including MTech from IITs. Some take up research at in-house projects after a course in niche technical areas. These scientific projects are conceptualised and run as per the suitability of our ships and equipment.

Our new academy at Ezhimala has begun engineering training and every Navy officer (technical and executive) will now get a BTech degree at the end of the four-year training.

How is a naval job unique?
At a very young age, sometimes at 22-23, you are meant to take charge of an entire ship that costs several crores. Few or no other jobs thrust such great responsibility upon a young man.

What are the second career options for officers who retire young?
There are plenty of options. There is a department dedicated to this. Called the Directorate General Resettlement (DGR), it has a long list of courses that one can pursue while on the (Navy) job.

These help one settle down in a civilian life afterwards. Premier institutes like the IIMs have management programmes dedicated to defence personnel. Some officers even go abroad to study for career betterment.

Rear Admiral Ajit Kumar P Interviewed by Vimal Chander Joshi