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Review Selection Criteria:FORCES NEED QUALITY NOT QUANTITY, by B.K. Mathur,25 July 2006 Print E-mail


New Delhi, 25 July 2006

Review Selection Criteria


By B.K. Mathur

 The National Security Council has prepared a document which its Chief, M.K. Narayanan, has circulated to all the Chief Ministers. The document contains a chilling revelation that two Lashkar-e-Toyyeba cadres have joined the Indian Air Force (IAF). The alarming report has, however, been denied by the IAF spokesperson who has stated: “We have got such reports and we have looked into the matter. But there are no LeT elements in the Air Force and we have carried out stringent check.”  Welcome relief.  But there has to be some basis about the report that has been forwarded to the IAF by none other than the National Security Adviser. The counter-intelligence wings of India’s armed forces must look into it, because the danger of undesirable elements entering the armed forces cannot be ruled out.

The latest discovery by the intelligence agencies is that various militant outfits have now started recruiting educated youth qualified to join any civil or military service. The sneaking in of the jehadi elements into the armed forces is a very serious matter requiring a good hard look at the recruitment system for the three military services – the Army, Air Force and the Navy.  On paper, the system is quite foolproof, leaving no scope for any undesirable element getting in.  But to have a definite drill for in-take both in the Officer cadre and the Other Ranks is one thing. To follow strictly the prescribed criteria quite another.  Doubts about failure to select right type of boys have arisen, given increasing reports of even some senior officers in the forces indulging in undesirable activities.

The IAF’s spokesperson in the Directorate of Public Relations, Ministry of Defence has talked about “stringent checks” while denying the report of two militant cadres joining the Air Force.  But the failure of the Services Selection Boards for recruitment of the Officer cadre and Recruiting Offices for the ORs (other ranks) to select right type of boys for the training Academies is being increasingly felt.  Take the case of Officers who lead the jawans, Airmen and Sailors. First the candidate has to clear a tough entrance examination conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and certain number of boys is recommended to the Services Selection Boards (SSB) in order of merit.

This is where the flaw lies. The method of selection at the SSBs.  Remember, in early 1950s a feeling had fast grown among some Star Officers at the Army Headquarters (AHQ) in New Delhi that right type of boys, with the required OLQ (Officer-like qualities) were not being sent to the training Academies.  This led the AHQ to send a group of SSB, Meerut, to reassess the second-term Gentleman cadets of the 13th course of the Indian Military Academy (IMA) at Dehra Dun.  Complete three-day selection exercise was repeated at the Academy.  The full report of the SSB has not yet been disclosed but one of the recommendations was that psychologically-centric selection mode needed to be amended.

One of the amendments then proposed was to give thought to the method followed during the Raj for selection in the British Indian Army.   Stress was given to the family background of the candidate for commissioning into the force. The second was his career profile in school and college he attended in the field of sports and other extra-curricular activities.  Which really meant that the President of the Board had more say in selecting a candidate than the Group Testing Officer (GTO) or the psychologist whose assessment is till today the main consideration for selection. Each of the three assesses --- the President, the GTO and the President --- have equal number of marks.

Even if the President of the Board and the GTO, both in service uniform, want to select a boy and the psychologist, a civilian, does not want to clear him, the candidate is out.  In this scenario chances of wrong selection are more, especially when corruption at all levels in military and civil, is the order of the day. How else would you explain the fact that so many cases of spying and corruption at the higher level are reported day in and day out. Look at the latest one: The Navy war room leak by some senior officers. One can go on and on highlighting cases of corruption and indiscipline in the armed forces. Imagine the involvement of a three Star and a two Star General in the sub-standard purchase of “Dal” for the troops.

Little wonder then that the “trio” at the SSB joins hands and selects somebody wholly undeserving. That explains the increasing trend of Staff Officers indulging in undesirable activities. At times boys with lesser score at the assessment stage get selected.  The reason? Better quality boys with seemingly high OLQ just do not want to join the armed forces, with the type of boys who look for their personal gains rather than the national interest. To fill up the vacancies at the Officer level, the Government is left with no choice but to compromise quality with quantity, with the result that bad boys manage to get into the forces and create problems like the increasing number of General Court Martials.

Now look at the increasing trend in various Recruitment offices across the country for Jawans, Airmen and Sailors… Haven’t you heard of umpteen cases from time to time of boys from the countryside having to pay for recruitment in various Regiments?  The system is getting from bad to worse, with the police enquiries being fudged for undesirable elements sneaking into the armed forces.  There is also the question of quality and quantity in the case of recruitment of the ORs.  The youth get better opportunities elsewhere than in the armed forces.

This forces the military headquarters to recruit sub-standard boys to fill up vacancies in various Regiments. The process may possibly lead to undesirable elements getting into the forces.  The situation is worse in case of employment of civilians in Regiments, Squadrons and Naval units.  People like barbers, bearers, cooks etc. can be employed on “considerations” that prevent the authorities from having proper checks on their antecedents. Remember, a Court Martial case at Mathura some years go in which an Officer was punished on charges of purchases of medicines for the civilian staff from a Chemist which did not exist. Fictitious bills were made and passed by the authorized Officer.

In such a climate which is currently prevailing in many armed forces units and where the recruitment systems at all levels is increasingly helping individuals, not the forces and, importantly the nation. As repeatedly emphasized in this column time and again, and for years, there is need, urgent need, to keep the country’s armed forces away from the deteriorating civil environment.  Recruitment norms should be changed where necessary, and strictly enforced in Selection Boards and Recruitment Offices. That will ensure quality intake at all levels. Further delay on this front would be at the nation’s peril. ---INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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