Few states interested in Sainik schools

Even though the armed forces are grappling with critical level of officers’ shortage, the supply line for manpower in the services is getting increasingly constricted with only a handful of new Sainik schools in the horizon.

Moreover, the defence ministry is yet to take any decision on raising the fifth battalion in the National Defence Academy in Pune. Once raised, the new battalion will add 480 seats in the prestigious military school.

The shortage of officers is most felt in the Army where the shortfall is of about 9,200 officers, followed by the Navy with about 2000 officers. The Air Force is the best of the lot with only 700-odd deficiencies.

Notwithstanding the shortfall, Punjab and Uttarakhand – the two traditional catchment areas for the armed forces – have not shown much interest in Sainik schools, whose aim is to prepare boys for the NDA.

Punjab has not approached the defence ministry to set up a second Sainik School though the state evinced interest in 2007. Similarly, there is no response from Uttarakhand since 2010. Both states have an existing Sainik School in Kapurthala and Ghorakhal respectively.

As the existing school in the hill state is located in Kumaon region, a Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence too suggested opening up a second school in Garhwal region of Uttrakhand  because both Kumaon and Gharwal regions were traditional recruitment grounds for the armed forces.

But in the last five years, defence ministry received only 11 requests from the states including one from Uttarakhand in 2010, out of which only four could be processed further in the absence of the subsequent processes the states need to take to bring a Sainik school. Parliament members from these states too were of not much help in arranging the finances required to set up these schools.

India currently has 24 Sainik schools, most of which were set up in the 1960s. The last two units came up in Chhattishgarh and Haryana in 2008 and 2009. Serving officers from the armed forces run the administration in these schools.

A new school will start functioning in Chittor in Andhra Pradesh later this year. Two more are under progress in Sambalpur, Odisha and Mainpuri in UP, which does not have a Sainik School despite being India’s most populous state.

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