Army chief General Deepak Kapoor feels the armed forces are an 'unattractive' career option for the country's youth and is looking at steps to counter that image.
"It does worry the Army chief very much," he said in New Delhi when asked about the Army's plans to fill up the 11,000-odd vacancies in the officer cadre and the dwindling number of youth wanting to join the armed forces.
"The armed forces have, after a study, come to the conclusion that the army is not too attractive as a career for a young man, who is looking for employment, for good productive life," Kapoor said in an interview to PTI.
To reach out to the youth, the army has in the recent times proposed to make the Short Service Commission (SSC) an attractive option for the youth by encouraging them to go for additional qualification such as a Doctorate or an MBA to enhance opportunities in the private sector when they leave the force.
It had also moved another proposal to send the SSC officers for higher command courses to enable them to continue as permanent officers. These courses were hitherto offered only to regular officers.
Another plan was to provide the SSC officers 'gratuity' for the 14-year service in the army that would make some funds available to them as a buffer when they left the service.
Patriotism as a motivation for the youth was not so strong today as it was soon after the country's independence, Kapoor said, pointing out that priorities of the youth were very different now.
"Post-independence, youth would forego much higher paying job opportunities to serve in the military. In England, the Queen's sons and grandsons have all been in the Service. So that is not for money. But some of those ethos have perhaps undergone a bit of a change," he said.
"That is why the army is trying to ensure that its culture, ethos and that respect and dignity that the Indian public accords to the army is maintained," he said.
Asked if he thought the civil services were more attractive than the armed forces as a career, the Army chief said the analysis did show such a trend from the youth's perspective.
"From a young man's perspective today, he finds it (civil services) more attractive. Perhaps he has greater opportunities to rise," Gen Kapoor said.
"There is the question of overall advancement and emoluments. The degree or spirit of nationalism is perhaps not as much today as it was earlier," he said.
Assuring that the armed forces were trying to set right the "anomalies" in the pay commission report, Kapoor said the youth was finding better emoluments, better pay (in civil service and corporate sector).
Gen Kapoor said the armed forces implemented the Ajai Vikram Singh Committee report on cadre restructuring to improve the promotion avenues of officers, though the Services "may still not be able to match the bureaucracy or the foreign service."
Asked if he felt the bureaucracy had given a short shrift to the armed forces on the pay issue, Kapoor said: "I won't say that. As long as the services go with their correct judgement and legitimate request -- which I think not only the bureaucracy, there is the politician over the bureaucrat -- they also listen. I don't see or think there is a problem."
Giving the Sixth Pay Commission example, Kapoor said the armed forces have gone back to the bureaucrats when even they had some aspects to clarify.
Admitting that some pay commission issues were still to be addressed, he said there had not been a 'no' from the government to their demands. "Thats how one has to look at it positively," he added.
To reach out to the youth and to inspire them to join the forces, the Army had in the recent times engaged in Image Projection Campaigns and also made proposals in the Short Service Commission (SSC).
"With the implementation of these proposals, intake of SSC officers, which was extremely low, is likely to improve. A new 10+2 (non-technical and technical) entry scheme has been proposed for SSC."