WINSTON Churchill once said that elderly people and those in authority cannot always be relied upon to take enlightened and comprehending views of what they call the indiscretions of youth. Youth has the resilience to absorb disaster and weave it into the pattern of its life, no matter how painful the thorn that penetrates its flesh. It is often said about the shortage of officers in Defence Services and the blame is put on the youth that they shy away from joining the uniformed services in the country. It is not that the youth are afraid and are unwilling to join. One reason is, that now Government has almost fixed quota from each State in para military organisations and in the Defence Services, in proportion to the population of the State.
It has been done as the Government believed that some states like Punjab and Haryana had disproportionate share in the representation in Defence Services. The result of this policy is that the introduction of quota State wise has meant fitting the square pegs in round holes. Sixty-six years after Independence, quotas and reservations have proliferated. They have become, inextricably, entrenched in our system of governance. It is one ploy to garner votes based on caste or religion. The original concept in our Constitution was that the reservation was to last for 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution. Even that was also only for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribe. Now it has been extended to Other Backward Classes. The Supreme Court has laid the limit of 50 per cent for reservation quota of all types in Government service. Left to the politicians it is anybody’s guess to what extent the reservations would have been extended Now another battle has started in which Other Backward Classes want to ride the bandwagon of reservations.
In the eyes of the law giving or taking a bribe is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act. However, caste-based quotas of various forms from reservations in jobs to admission into educational institutions have been an accepted part of vote-bank politics.
However, it is not considered a bribe, when it is given by the government to the people under various guises or to certain electorally important or vote bank- sections of the people. Even a Noble Peace winner of Indian origin Amartya Sen says that it (reservations) helps in empowering communities and getting them into the mainstream.
To say that Youth are not joining the Defence Services from India is a travesty of facts. It is for the simple reason that all states in proportion to their population have been allocated quota for recruitment in Defence Services. Some states do not have people of the required physical fitness level. There are other states, which do not have the tradition of joining Defence or Para Military Forces and so their quota remains unfilled. The Punjab government made a strong case with the Defence Ministry for doing away with the quota system in recruitment of the Defence Forces as early as in November 2008. It said that the current system of recruitment to the army entailing two per cent quota is a major hindrance in fair recruitment of Punjab youth into the forces. It suggested that the army recruitment be based only on merit. Adding further it added that the Punjabi youth were more meritorious because of their “good physical standards”. Soldiering is a deep-rooted tradition in Punjab but the quota system has put a cap on the army recruitments from the State.
Height, chest measurement and physical fitness vary and some states are not able to comply with the minimum. Blame does not lie on the lack of response, but on the lack of traditions and capacity to take risks and face dangers from the states, where people are just not interested in uniformed services. Of course, the Government would not admit that the reservation policy is responsible for it. In a written reply in December 2012, the Defence Minister of India said: “The Indian military is facing a shortage of around 13,000 officers and 53,700 personnel below officer rank with the Army accounting for bulk of vacancies. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, the Minister said some of the major reasons for vacancies in the Armed Forces include lucrative alternative career avenues and difficult service conditions.
”Some of the major reasons for vacancies in Armed Forces include accretion in force level from time to time, availability of multiple and lucrative alternative career avenues with growth of nation’s economy, stringent selection and difficult service conditions coupled with perceived high degree of risk,” he said.
The Army was short of 10,100 officers till July this year while the shortage of Personnel Below Officers Rank (PBOR) stood at 32,431 till the month of September. Till September, Navy had 1,996 less officers against its required strength. It was also short of 14,310 sailors. In the Indian Air Force (IAF), the officer shortage was recorded at 962, while it was short of around 7,000 airmen till December.
On steps taken by government to encourage youth to join the Armed Forces, Shri Antony said various measures such as recruitment rallies and media campaigns have been conducted. On the number of cadets passing out of various academies, he said, “A total of 9,001 cadets passed out from various academies since the year 2010.”
Around 10,800 service personnel have taken premature retirement from the services this year alone. In the Army, 10,081 personnel opted for early retirement, while the number for the Navy and the Air Force was 170 and 571 respectively. Last year, 10,603 Army personnel left the force. The same stood at 157 and 1,000 for the Navy and the IAF, respectively. The fact of other better avenue of employments is not based on facts, but only to divert attention. Average unemployment rate in India is expected to rise to 9.4 per cent in 2013 from a 9.3 per cent in 2012, which means that roughly there would be more than 9 crore unemployed youth.
Apart from the above problems, the Government has made it impossible to de-reserve or un-reserve, the posts and they are carried forward from year to year, as the suitable candidates from the earmarked states or communities do not join Defence Services. The situation is ridiculous and gives an impression, that while fighting the enemy, the defence services will fight in proportion to the ratio of State population or in the terms of 50 per cent reservations for all categories. It is something of the Government’s making. It is not only hazardous for the country but also puts its safety in jeopardy.
One felt that our politicians would show sufficient patriotism, in so far as the security and defence of the country is concerned. But alas, this hope also has been belied. North India has always faced aggression from the invaders, which has never been the case in the South of Vindhyas or Central India. Between themselves, the bordering states having border with Pakistan can fill all the vacancies, if given a chance. Moreover, they have a stake in the defence of the country, as in any attack from Pakistan they are the worst sufferers.
The following joke illustrates my point forcefully about the various characteristics of the states. Field Marshal Sam Bahadur Manekshaw once started addressing a public meeting at Ahmedabad in English. The crowd started chanting, “Speak in Gujarati. We will hear you only if you speak in Gujarati.” Field Marshal Sam Bahadur Manekshaw stopped. Swept the audience with a hard stare and replied, “Friends, I have fought many a battle in my long career. I have learned Punjabi from men of the Sikh Regiment; Marathi from the Maratha Regiment; Tamil from the men of the Madras Sappers; Bengali from the men of the Bengal Sappers, Hindi from the Bihar Regiment; and even Nepali from the Gorkha Regiment. Unfortunately, there was no soldier from Gujarat from whom I could have learned Gujarati.” You could have heard a pin drop silence.
(The writer is former CBI director and can be contacted at [email protected]