By Vijay Joshi / AP
Kuala Lumpur: India’s army chief said he is hopeful of securing a salary hike for his officers, whose meager wages are blamed for a massive shortage of mid-level commanders in the world’s fourth largest army.
“We are hopeful we will get a fairly decent package for military personnel to make the armed forces an attractive career for the youth of the country,” Gen. Deepak Kapoor told The Associated Press, Monday, 5 February, during an official visit to Malaysia.
Army chiefs and Defence Minister A.K. Antony have asked the government to increase officers’ salaries and the government is expected to soon announce its new wages for state employees, including defense personnel.
“We have made some recommendations that should make the services fairly attractive. I am quite hopeful,” he said.
The 1.23 million-member Indian army needs about 47,000 officers, but currently has only about 36,000, according to official figures.
The shortfall is critical with the army on constant alert along the borders with Pakistan, China and Bangladesh, while also fighting a host of domestic insurgencies in Kashmir and northeastern states.
India has fought three wars with Pakistan and one with China.
While soldiers’ wages are on par with low-paid blue collar jobs in civilian life, officers’ salaries have remained stagnant as India’s economic boom has created well-paying jobs elsewhere.
A lieutenant colonel, a rank attained after 10 years of service, earns a basic monthly salary of Rs12,000 ($300; €200), according to government figures. A fresh graduate working in a call center typically earns Rs25,000 ($400).
Officers are increasingly being drawn to better-paid jobs in the private sector and high school graduates are reluctant to join the National Defense Academy, India’s prestigious military training school, Kapoor said.
“When he (a high school graduate) finds that the armed forces is the least attractive, he is obviously not going to join,” Kapoor said.
“Of course there is that aspect of nationalism and motivation. But aside from that, as a youngster, he is looking at what kind of package he is going to get,” he said.
During his talks with Malaysia’s army chief, Kapoor discussed cooperation between the two armies in counterterrorism efforts, peacekeeping operations and disaster management, he said.
He was scheduled to fly to Singapore later Tuesday before traveling to the Philippines. The tour is part of India’s effort to forge closer economic and military ties with Southeast Asia.
“Defense cooperation is part of overall diplomacy of a country. To that extent, we would like to improve the defense cooperation component,” he said.