The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army of officers wants out

New Delhi, Nov. 23: Armed forces officers are seeking to get out of uniform and into civilian jobs in increasing numbers, according to statistics compiled in the defence ministry.

The increasing number of officers seeking discharge from the services is making a bad situation worse as the armed forces already have a shortage of officers.

The upward trend in the number of officers seeking discharge and/or premature retirement is visible across the services (see chart).

But it is being felt most in the Indian Air Force where pilots are wanting to leave for lucrative jobs with commercial airlines in the wake of the boom in civil aviation. Air Headquarters has told its officers that permission to leave will not be given easily.

The Indian Air Force has an authorised strength of 3,278 pilots. There are currently 210 pilot vacancies. The official explanation is that “this is not a large gap” and that “operational requirements are not affected”. Air force sources also say that the majority of pilots who have left have already completed their “useful tenure”.

The trend of leaving the IAF scaled a peak in 2004 when 116 pilots took premature retirement. Since then Air Headquarters has decided to restrict the number. Fifty-eight pilots were permitted to leave in 2005 and this year — till October 31 — only 19 have been allowed to bow out.

In the army, 2,016 officers sought discharge in five years (2001-2005). Worryingly for the force, the number has been increasing year on year. But the figure dropped in 2002 during Operation Parakram — the deployment of the forces along the border.

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