(This was originally posted in The Print by Amrita Nayak Dutta)
New Delhi: The Indian Army is discussing a proposal to directly enroll Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) in all arms of the service to address the shortage of nearly 14,000 officers.
JCOs — a link between the officers and other ranks in the Indian Army — are currently enrolled as jawans and are promoted to officers over a period of time based on their performance and on their ability to clear promotion examinations. Currently, a few JCOs are directly enrolled as religious teachers and in certain technical arms such as the Corps of Engineers. However, fighting arms of the Indian Army do not have any provision for direct enrollment of JCOs. The Army has been promoting JCOs to officers from among their own ranks.
What the proposal states
According to the proposal, the Indian Army will directly induct JCOs who have cleared the Services Selection Board (SSB) interview. The UPSC will conduct an entrance examination, which would be followed by an SSB interview and a medical examination. Selected candidates would then be trained for one and a half years before joining the units as JCOs. Subsequently, they would be promoted to officers up to the rank of Colonels based on their length of service and qualifications.
The proposal states that four direct entry JCOs will be authorized to a unit having 14 officers, five to those with up to 19, and six to units with 20 or more officers. The proposal is likely to be presented during the Army Commanders Conference which is likely to be held later this month.
‘Will not impact current promotion prospects’
A senior Army officer told ThePrint that the JCOs enrolled directly will be offset against officer vacancies in units and not impact the existing promotion prospects of other ranks. Though select JCOs and other ranks have an opportunity to get promoted as officers, the numbers are inadequate, primarily due to lack of necessary qualifications, because of which many get rejected at the SSB interview conducted for aspirants.
The new proposal looks at directly enrolling JCOs who will subsequently be promoted to officers in a shorter time frame, thereby addressing the problem of shortage of officers to a large extent. A second senior Army officer said that, at present, jawans usually are promoted to JCOs upto the rank of Subedar, with a select few being promoted to the rank of Subedar Major.
“The new proposal will not not impact these vacancies or the promotion prospects for jawans,” the officer said. “The proposed direct entry JCOs would be inducted against entry level vacancies of the officer cadre,” the officer added. The vacancies of promotion of jawans were also increased during the last Cadre review, when the number of authorised JCOs in all arms were enhanced, the officer said.