By Arnav Malhotra
India faces an unemployment problem as well as an acute shortage in the defense sector.
The first ever global report commissioned by the Queen Elizabeth Prize for Engineering revealed that 80% of 16 to 17 year olds in India are interested in an engineering career. According to Aspiring Minds National Employability Report, which is based on a study of more than 1,50,000 engineering students who graduated in 2015 from over 650 colleges, 80% of them are unemployable. Other popular choices of careers in India include the fields of medicine, law or teaching or even becoming a cricketer.
Meanwhile, there is a shortage of over 52,000 personnel in the armed forces of the country, including 10,000 officers. The question arises: why would the country’s defense sector, which is also as lucrative as any other career, face such a serious shortage. Is it the ‘risk factor’? After all, why would someone voluntarily choose a career in which each day could be your last? Would an Indian mother be fine with her own child choosing this as an option? Currently, this seems to be the reason. A high-risk perception has led to this major shortfall. However, when we delve deeper into statistics, a different picture arises.
There have been close to 3500 deaths in 2015 in local train in Mumbai alone. Compared to that, the army has lost close to 4000 personnel since the Kargil War. Does this shatter the myth that the army is not risky at all? No. But, it could be argued that that is no more risky than living in the otherwise ‘safe’ metropolitan cities.
Colonel Sharma observes that there are a large number of people in the regions of Northern India that consider joining the armed forces. But as you scale southwards, the numbers keep reducing. Perhaps this is due to the fact that all the borders and ‘noisier’ neighbors toward the north. ‘It could also be due to the people in the northern areas of the country being slightly more adventurous,’ observes the Colonel. It is true that the armed forces are often associated with adventure. But it would be foolish to say that adventure is all that the armed forces provide. It can also be noted that the armed forces provide an education that no other careers provide. Captain Raghu Raman, who now works as group President for Reliance Industries, further elaborates on this. He says, ‘anything that you need to learn for a business, the root lies in warfare. Business is nothing but a number of contenders competing for a less amount of resources. That is also the definition of war’. The armed forces teach you immense amounts of important practical knowledge, for example leadership, communications, management. In no other career could you have hundreds of people under you who would follow every last order you gave them without a single flinch, ready to lay down their lives for you. This isn’t possible if you do not possess the adequate skills of leadership as well as management. Colonel Sharma, too, boasts of an automobile engineering degree, weapons course degrees, and a management course degree under his belt. He was simply a graduate when he joined the army.
In a country, which is, facing problems like communal tension, discrimination and unequal statuses, the armed forces perhaps constitute the only institutions where no one questions your caste, where you come from, your status and other such details. ‘An officer’s kids, as well as a Jawaan’s kid study in the same classroom of the same school. There is absolutely no differentiation. You’re Indian at the end of the day,’ beams Colonel Sharma. ‘It is one of the only such institutions in this country. It’s also a highly organized system without a single element of chaos in it. Rather, it is created to sort out the chaos in the rest of the country’.
With the 7th Pay commission, even the salaries in the sector of defense have received quite a huge boost, hence ensuring a comfortable life. So, what exactly is the reason that the youth of the country aren’t inclined towards this as a career option? Could it be a lack of a patriotic spark within everyone? Why is there such an acute shortage of defense personnel in the country?
To answer that question it is also important to note that the selection process to be in the armed forces is really stringent. Not anyone can make the cut. There are written entrance exams testing general intelligence followed by a 5-day interview process where you’re tested psychologically and judged whether you have ‘Officer Like Qualities’. If one doesn’t have these qualities in them, they simply don’t. There isn’t any way one can move on to the next stage, which consists of physical tests and medical tests without possessing the following qualities. The attrition rate in the interviews is very high. Out of a sample size of about 30 people, only two to three are selected. ‘The armed forces require the best individuals in the country- wholesome packages. You’re tested to the bone and each and every aspect of yours is studied and scrutinized, only if you have the officer like qualities, are you selected’, says Colonel Sharma.
Unfortunately, the government cannot reduce the shortage by reducing the level of difficulty in clearing the stages to be a part of the forces.
The only solution to that can perhaps be limited to a much larger number of people giving it a shot. With the internal strife within the country and international relations with our neighbors dwindling, it is important that we do all we can to reduce the shortfall of defense personnel, and more importantly, stand by them in these difficult times, such as Kashmir.
There lies no clear solution to the situation in the valley, but to brandish our army is clearly not one. It is a very complicated matter, and unfortunately the situation doesn’t look like improving for a long period of time. ‘It is a proxy war being fought in Kashmir. There are about 100-500 terrorists in J&K, for which the government has committed approximately 200,000 troop s(the government has not released an official figure as yet) , committed to eradicate these terrorists. These terrorists come from the other side of the borders, and it is our government that incurs great expenditures so our troops can function and hopefully brandish all elements of terrorism. Kashmir can prove to be a very hostile environment to serve in and in the current scenario it is difficult to pick a side and choose what is black and what is white.
Hopefully, the shortage of the defense personnel is accounted for, because in the country’s present situation and with what’s happening all over the world, it is absolutely imperative. Hopefully, the next time a child wants to join the defense sector, the Indian mother won’t stop the child or object against it because it is ‘too unsafe’.