Govt admits to shortfall of 13,024 officers in Def Forces

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New Delhi, Mar 19 (UNI) The government today admitted to a shortfall of 13,924 officers in the three wings of the Defence Forces and has taken several steps to attract more talented youth, Defence Minister A K Antony said here.

The shortfall includes 11,153 in the Army, 1403 in the Navy and 1368 in the Air Force, he told the Rajya Sabha in reply to a question.

Pointing out that there had been shortfalls in the intake of cadets in the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehradun, he said the shortfall in recruitment of officers could be partly attributed to change in the socio-economic environment, career preferences and availabiity of employment opportunities in other sectors.

Listing various steps taken by the government to attract more youth to join the Defence Forces, the Minister said all officers including those in the Short Service Commission (SSC) had been made eligible to hold substantive rank of Captain, Major and Lt Col after two, six and 13 years of ''reckonable service'' respectively.

In addition, 750 posts of Lt Col had been upgraded to Col.

rank and the tenure of SSC officers had also been extended from 10 to 14 years.

Mr Antony said the Armed Forces had undertaken sustained image projection and publicity campaign to create awareness among the youth on the advantages of joining the Defence Forces.

Candidate-friendly recruitment procedures to attract more youth and a focussed publicity drive in various institutions had been undertaken.

The government had appointed the Sixth Pay Commission to look into the question of revision of pay and allowances, he said, adding that the three services had presented a joint memorandum to the Pay Commission suggesting revision of pay and allowances and other service conditions.

The matter had also been discussed with the Pay Commission by the three Services Chiefs and officers in the Defence Ministry.

Replying to another question about the reported open market sale of ration meant for soldiers in Siachen, Mr Antony admitted that some ''stray incidents'' had been noticed in 2007. Police, acting on information provided by the Army, had raided some places and seized some ration.

Eleven FIRs were registered by the Jammu and Kashmir Police and two Courts of Inquiry had been ordered, he added.

UNI RB KD KN1521

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