Shortage in armed forces alarming

It is a matter of concern that the shortage of personnel in the armed forces is steadily increasing and may continue to be a serious problem in the coming years too. The shortage of officers in all the three wings of the forces has been well-known. More worrying is the shortage of personnel below officer rank (PBOR). Though the inability of the forces to attract recruits to ordinary ranks has been known for some time, it is now that it has received more attention. The shortage has actually been experienced since 1971, but now it has reached a critical stage. Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar recently said there is a shortage of about 52,000 personnel, including 41,000 personnel of other ranks, in all services. The shortage of 41,000 personnel in a force of over a million is not inconsiderable. More worrying is the minister’s statement that it will take many years to solve the problem of shortage.  
Many steps have been taken to attract more people to the forces. One main reason for the shortage in the PBOR segment is that the traditional recruiting grounds like Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan are not sending as many young people to the forces as they did in the past. There was once a norm of sending one son to the army. The prestige of having a fauji culture in the family has also weakened. With the spread of higher education, there are fewer young people who would look for careers in the PBOR segment. Better prospects in the private sector and greater opportunities for even pursuing private business in villages and small towns may be other reasons. It is even stated that career in the army and the paramilitary forces are seen as more risky than in the past because of their increasing involvement in internal security duties. There is a view that the forces are not getting recruits because they are now looking for those with qualifications other than physical fitness. This is a wrong excuse because there cannot be any shortage of people who have good intellectual and mental standards.

The government and the forces have to take more steps to attract young people to a military career. Image improvement efforts and publicity campaigns have been undertaken along with exhibitions and career fairs. But there is the need for better projection of the image of the forces and the benefits to be got from careers in them. There may also be a case to make the terms and working conditions more attractive. 

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