If you like to steam up the kitchen with your culinary skills, you are not ‘officer like’. You will also fail to make the cut at the Services Selection Board (SSB), which screens potential officers for the armed forces, if you tell them about your girlfriend.
The startling grounds on which candidates have been rejected demonstrate that the selection standards are shockingly archaic. Even the Ministry of Defence has admitted that some of the tests are “too rigorous and impracticable”.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence is examining various dimensions of the selection procedures at a time when the army faces a shortage of over 12,000 officers and the air force and navy face a combined shortfall of about 3,000 officers. Candidates have been found to be unworthy of the uniform on trivial grounds that do not necessarily sum up their character or psychology.
Here’s a sampling of some grounds of rejection. Asked about his Sunday schedule, a candidate replied he liked to sleep till late and have a hearty breakfast of paranthas. The assessor felt the candidate was lazy and did not utilise spare time for outdoor activities.
In another case, a school captain was rejected for saying that he abhorred the killing of animals for human consumption. The assessor’s verdict was that he lacked “killer instinct”.
It is evident that the system has a proclivity for rejection and is directed towards finding limitations in personality. It is no secret that assessors hesitate to give a clear-cut assessment and grade candidates as “borderline cases”. Such cases form 36 per cent of all candidates.
Candidates have been rejected for admitting that they smoke without the knowledge of their parents, and even for bunking college to catch the matinee show.
One candidate was shown the door after he accepted that he had bribed a railway conductor to get reservation due to the short notice for the SSB interview. His honest admission was perceived as a sign of lack of integrity.
A ministry official said there were no plans to dilute the selection standards but acknowledged some procedures required a fresh look. A panel appointed by the chairman, Chiefs of Staff Committee, which has the three service chiefs on board, has submitted a report on various aspects of the selection process.
“One of the issues dealt with in the report is that the selection procedure is extremely rigorous. So there is a question whether we need to have more boards and psychologists,” the official said.