Compulsory military service could solve the human resources crisis in the army, General Deepak Kapoor said on Monday. The army chief said the government might have to consider the idea of conscription in the long run if the problem of shortage of officers persisted.
At last count the army was short of 11,238 officers. Worse still, the Indian Military Academy and the National Defence Academy are functioning way below their capacities. Speaking on the eve of the 60th Army Day, Kapoor admitted that the army had proved itself no match for the corporate sector, which with its big-ticket jobs was depriving the force of its most vital resources. He said, “We are not getting the right material. The corporate world is paying much more. It is a source of worry.” Kapoor’s frank views on conscription indicate that the army is surely losing sleep over not being able to attract the right raw material.
The army may be bogged down by personnel issues but there’s some succour on the equipment front. The army chief said the Rs 10,000-crore artillery modernisation programme was on track, with the Ministry of Defence issuing the RFP (request for proposals) for the procurement of 140 ultra-light Howitzer guns to equip seven regiments. These guns would score over conventional heavy artillery guns as they can be deployed in remote locations with relative ease.
Artillery modernisation is crucial for the army as there has been no fresh induction of artillery guns since the Bofors scandal broke out in the 1980s. The army plans to induct over 1,580 155mm 52-calibre artillery guns in a phased manner. But it has had little luck even though global tenders for the acquisition of 400 towed 155mm 52-calibre artillery guns, valued at over $1.5 billion, were issued way back in 2001.
The tender was scrapped last year after an unprecedented four rounds of trials. Kapoor said, “Artillery modernisation did suffer a setback as the 155mm guns were not up to the mark and we had to foreclose earlier trials.” The army chief disclosed that Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) had cleared the procurement of equipment for the modernisation of Special Forces.