The seats at academy are always full

Oops! Did General JJ Singh actually say so in April 2007? If you believe the India Today, he did. How prophetic? What a visionary?

“Officers are leaving, but many youth want to join. Seats at our academy are always full.” [IT]

The facts, just eight months down the line, are -

At the National Defence Academy, near Pune, where candidates are selected after higher secondary, only 172 of the available 300 seats have been taken up.

At the IMA, which is celebrating its platinum jubilee this year, only 90 cadets have enrolled for the 250 available seats. [Telegraph]

If the matter was not so serious, it could be laughed away in passing. The Army (and the Navy and the Air Force) are hell bent on projecting the Sixth Pay commission as the panacea to all ills plaguing the services. It isn’t that simple.

Let us first look at the reality of the Sixth pay commission, behind the facade of bombastic claims made by various generals. If the grapevine is to be believed, the hike demanded in the basic pay by the three services has whittled down to 2.5 times (from 400% or 5 times earlier). On 01 January 2007, the effective pay (= Basic pay + Dearness pay + Dearness allowance) for a trooper was already 2.15 times the basic pay. Even if the government accepts 2.5 times increase in basic pay, it would make little or no difference in the effective pay as on April 2008. The arrears from the effective date of implementation (say 01 January 2007) would make a decent packet – it would be a subterfuge for lack of a real raise.

One of the other tasks of the Sixth Pay commission is to suggest reduction in the size of the government. The Army baulks and chafes at any suggestions of rightsizing. A quarter of the defence budget of Rs. 96,000 crore goes towards the salaries, while the defence pension bill of Rs. 14,000 crore is not counted towards the defence budget. Make no mistake, the issue of rightsizing the military is unrelated to lowering of guard for national security. It is about cutting wasteful expenditure – to get more bang for the buck [related posts here, here and here].

The Indian Army’s utilisation levels have changed little since the times of the British. In fact, it has only gotten worse. Take, for instance, the increase in colour service. Until the mid-1970s, soldiers served for only seven years, which saved the government from paying pensions to nearly two-thirds of the army, gave the force a more youthful profile and allowed soldiers who quit in their mid-20s to pursue new vocations, including a stint in the paramilitary forces. Today, the retirement age is between 37 and 40 years, when the soldier is too old to start off in another profession. At present, there are two pensioners for every serving soldier.

A soldier costs the nation roughly Rs 20,000 per month, including salary, pension and training costs. Yet, a vast majority of them are employed in non-core skills like driving and serving as orderlies. The army has over one lakh drivers and an equal number of sahayaks (orderlies). In foreign armed forces, only senior-most officials are entitled to vehicles; the rest drive their own cars and get an allowance.

Even as it hankers for state-of-the-art night-vision devices and main-battle tanks, the army has not made even the simplest advances in civilian supply chain management to improve its unwieldy logistics tail. Take, for example, procurement of vehicles from the private sector. These are first sent to godowns in Mumbai from where they are dispatched to field areas. Yet another glaring example is the huge depot in Allahabad where the army procures and stores items with low shelf-life, like paints and welding rods. [IT]

The Sixth pay commission can certainly do a lot for the Indian armed forces. A decent (and real) hike in salary would be an icing on the cake, but the cake patty would have to be rightsizing the Army. Unfortunately, the pay commission can’t do much about another major ill plaguing the army – an anachronistic organisational culture. That is another story by itself… for another day.

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14 Responses to The seats at academy are always full

  1. Pramod Biligiri January 15, 2008 at 1:49 am #

    Who decides which of China’s so-called transgressions are worthy of blocking trade?

    I’d let the common man decide whether he wants to buy stuff from China or not. There’s nothing stopping consumer activists from rallying the public. Strong arming the State seems the wrong way to go about it.

    If we are to block cheap products from coming in from China, only consumers are hurt in the long run.

    I also think it’s silly of the Indian Govt. to lay down conditions for China on how to run its internal economy. Would we like it if the US did it to India?

    To compete with China, Indian industry could instead create cartels and hype their own strengths in quality, equity and IP – make up something like CMM Level 5 and use it as a differentiator.

  2. dev kumar January 15, 2008 at 11:40 am #

    i just wanna ask few simplw questions
    1. Why the army has failed to att young lot
    is it due to less pay or lack of motivation?
    2. is the actual no of seats not filled during the alast year is same as shown in ur artical?if so it is alraming.
    3. how to improve the situation?

  3. Nitin January 15, 2008 at 12:39 pm #

    Lo and behold, they’ve begun to talk about conscription!

  4. Raja January 15, 2008 at 4:02 pm #

    Like a large number of my comrades in arms, I to have begun to think very seriously about quitting on reaching twenty years of service.
    Will a hike in the sixth pay commission stop me?
    Perhaps it will make me think again, but chances are I would go ahead and put up the papers anyway.
    The issue is, it is not just the pay.
    The army was an elite society twenty years back. People said – join the army for a respected and good life.
    Today, the infrastructure in the army is rotting at the seams.
    All so called ‘perks’ the army offers come with veritable downsides attached, like the PL 480 of yore.
    Take accommodation. You are authorised a large house, which would cost fifty lakhs to build at current rates anyway. Now when you go to live in this house, you find poor maintenance. In fact, if you are not a senior officer, chances are that your house will be un-whitewashed and leaking.
    You are authorised rations. The quality of the same makes you throw away the rice to the neighbourhood bai as barter for ‘jhaadoo pochha’.
    You are authorised entry to clubs to pass a pleasant evening. But the truth of the matter is, most of the good clubs started by the army are now under civilian control, and armymen are now seen as poor paying temporary imposters who need to be suffered. Take any Club, and the situation is the same.
    You are authorised medical treatment. But pay a visit to the overcrowded hospitals where you and your family is looked at with disdain ( who is this idiot anyway?); there are waiting lines for hours on end; there is the ever increasing shortage of quality doctors and medicines; and you turn away in disgust.
    Then what do you do? You use your money to get better ( and prompt) medical treatment, to repair your house, and to buy better rations.
    Facilities are only one part of the story.
    A critical add on is the nature of the job. Specially at senior ranks.
    In essence, there are few jobs in the senior ranks that have anything worthwhile to do in the first place. The reason is the exponential rise in ranks, an issue that has been discussed elsewhere. The situation will only exacerbate with AV Singh II. Finally we will end up doing nothing for 10-20 years, after we have crossed the level of commanding officers of units.
    In addition is the issue of ‘mandalisation’ of the army, as again pointed out in this blog elsewhere. With the Infantry getting all the higher appointments ( most of them), and the caste system of ‘arms’ and ‘services’; it seems just pointless to serve in senior ranks and apppointments. The argument for preferential treatment to ‘arms’ is the amount of time they spend in the wilderness.
    But unsaid in the whole story is the utter lack of respect, in fact the existence of a state of condescencion, towards others lower in the totem pole.
    In summary, even if you give more ( marginally more as we know it will be) money, there will be no change in the status of people thinking of quitting, till the time the army becomes more professional, less idiosyncratic, more well managed, and till the time the so called facilities that the army says you will get as compensation for lesser pay are received in top quality.

  5. rajiv January 15, 2008 at 4:31 pm #

    It does not matter what the Armed Forces are provided with but what does affect is that whatever is being given just does not attract professionals or incentive to quality youngsters in our country. This is what the country needs to think about & not the Pay Commission or the Govt.

  6. Rohit January 15, 2008 at 11:34 pm #


    You are quite right that salaries may not increase immediately in April 2008. Nevertheless, in a short time, with DA being calculated on the new basic pay, the hike would be substantial. In fact, what you say about no immediate hike in salaries is true for almost all central government employees post implementation of pay commission recommendations.

    Agree completely about the right sizing.

  7. Pragmatic January 16, 2008 at 10:45 am #

    Raja/ Saikap:
    Thanks and a point very succinctly put across.

    Dev Kumar/ Rajiv/ Rohit:
    Thanks for the comments. It will need many more posts in the future to tackle the issue in entirety.

    I intend to have a post on the absurdity of the idea of a draft.

  8. PS January 17, 2008 at 6:37 am #

    [1] Drivers: Drivers for Tanks, Tank Transporters, Lorries, Trucks, Mules, Cars, Special vehicles. Don’t think they are all ferrying Sahib/Memsahib (uniformed lady, that is) to the office. Anyhow home to office and back is to be done on own tpt. [ MVR and DSR, MIML, CMP.] Check out the number of Bullock Cart Drivers killed in WW I – listed on India Gate – RHS as you face it. Or the number of Mil Drivers killed in 2007 – published in newspapers 15 Jan. Point Not Gel; Simco.

    [2] In lieu for 24×7: Even Call Centre Employees are not 24 x 7 on call. A Fauji, however, is told to be on duty anytime, any place, all the time, for anything. Perhaps that merits a Sahayak, else with every Tiger at every level chasing his own local adm and routines nothing much would get done while say Commanding officers or Company commanderjis stand in Q to collect daily bread.

    [3] Bolshevik Grub: By the way should Officers Messes be scrapped and Cafetarias be the norm in Cantts – with the same ration scales all round ?

  9. Pragmatic January 17, 2008 at 9:03 am #


    No nitpicking please. The drivers, being referred to in the IT article and my post, are known to all of us. Let us leave it at that.

    About Sahayaks, I wonder how do the other modern armies of the world do it. Or for that matter IAF and IN. A Maj General serving in Delhi is no different from an Air Marshal or a Rear Admiral. Why can’t the Maj General survive without a litany of Sahayaks and his peers can? Do you intend filing an RTI for the number of sahayaks attached with the Army HQ Camp, Delhi area units and other establishments for these demeaning duties? What about soldiers (professional soldiers)staying in servant quarters (meant for ayahs and bais) in government accomodation at Delhi?

    Officers Messes should be scrapped. You said it. What about AwwA/AfwwA etc., Ladies Club, Golf courses (oops Environmental parks and training areas) and so on?

    The issue is about rightsizing the Armed forces. It is not about arguing over myriad details. Once we agree to the basic premise, the details can then be worked out.

  10. PS January 17, 2008 at 7:18 pm #

    [1] Give the Army and Navy guys a break:
    (a) They did the last recorded bayonet charge-in Ceylon (IPKF). One survivor.
    (b) The ‘impossible’ WWI type assault – Kargil.
    (c) The last enemy ship sunk with gunfire ? The Indian Navy. It was Portuguese. The first ship sunk by the IN with gunfire in 1612 was also Portuguese.
    …etc etc &c

    [2} Not Cricket:
    So, if a batty waters the Cactus and Dahlias let him, they do it in the rain too. Some of the accommodation in the older Cantts is not fit for pigs leave alone for faujis. They are better off in bai qaurters; fringe benefits too ? Do read Ashok Mahajan's wicked verses on the Fauj ( Book "Uniformly Crazy", Satanic verses on the Indian Army, ISBN 81-7157-143-8 published Rupa and Co 1993) Page 81 has a Sahayak's lament.

    [3] All at Sea:
    No, Rear Admirals in Delhi don’t have cricketers. At least your’s truly’s father ( joined 1941, retired 1977) who was in that category never did, I know. Whatever for ? The Navy in Delhi is a fish out of water.

    [4] Yessir ! Football and Shooting ranges should replace genteel corporate sports like golf and croquet. Check out how many civilians are members of the AF Golf Club. Networking facilitated ?

    [5] Other Armies, who cares how they labour on ? They ain’t nothing. Ours is the bestest as you would know Sir. Currently the ONLY Army in the world which trains ‘Gentlemen Cadets’ — that also in today’s world.

    [6] Lets’ first sort out the Railways, DDA, FCI, Customs, MCD, the Justice system, the Births and Deaths Registration office in Delhi – we all pay bribes there, RTOs, and …

  11. ask January 17, 2008 at 7:53 pm #

    Nice article, what are we begging for anyway? Though we keep crying that we are short of officers, have ancient equipment etc, the armed forces have time and again delivered much more than we are asked for by the babus. Till the time we ourselves stop doing so , do you really think anyone is going to listen. Are we prepared to do only what we are asked for and let them face the consequences…..? Or do we keep doing extra for that measly extra stripe or brass. Why do we talk of honour etc to those who know nothing of it. It’s we who have to fight, the only time the babus will realise the worth of the armed forces will be when it’s too late.

  12. Pragmatic January 17, 2008 at 9:56 pm #


    I am neither erudite nor smart enough to get your exact position on issues. Or is that a deliberate ploy to maintain ambivalence?

  13. Best Airsoft Pistol December 14, 2013 at 12:03 pm #

    continu?usly i u?ed to read smaller articles or reviews that as well clear their motive, and that is ?lso happening
    with this piece of writing which I am r?ading her?.


  1. Pragmatic Euphony » Blog Archive » Indian Army needs a draft! - January 16, 2008

    [...] can then gloat at having correctly prophesied the fall of Indian Army, unlike General JJ Singh, who put his foot in the mouth over the intake into academies issue. In any case, artificial intelligence is no match for natural [...]

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