(This was originally posted in The Print by Amrita Nayak Dutta)
Warnings, ineligibility for promotions and awards, and ‘suitable’ administrative actions — the Indian Navy has set strict new penalties for its personnel, both male and female, if they fail to maintain a high level of fitness standards, top defence sources told ThePrint.
A 300-metre shuttle run in under 65 seconds, dive into swimming pool from a 5-metre-high platform, 1.5-km run within 13 minutes are some of the physical efficiency test (PET) parameters the Navy has set in its new and stringent guidelines.
PETs are conducted for naval officers and sailors routinely. However, under the new guidelines those who fail to clear PETs in specific time-frames will face strict action, the sources said.
Issued in February, the guidelines are set to come into effect from this month, according to the sources. The PET parameters are separate for male and female naval personnel.
ThePrint reached the Navy spokesperson via a text message for a comment on the move. This report will be updated when a response is received.
A senior Navy officer said the force had always been strict about the fitness standards maintained by its personnel, and they are connected to promotions. Guidelines to this effect are promulgated by the service from time to time, the officer said.
What the guidelines say
According to the guidelines, in case a naval officer or a sailor fails to qualify the PETs, they will be counselled by the commanding officer (CO) and the head of the department, respectively. After this, they will undergo a mandatory retest.
If they fail to qualify for the retest after 90 days, they will be issued a formal warning by the CO, a copy of which will be attached to their annual confidential report — which plays a key role in deciding on promotions.
In case they fail to pass the test even after 180 days, they would not be eligible for recommendation for awards, deputation, courses or even extension of service or re-employment, according to the guidelines.
They will also secure a negative weightage for sea-time selection (sea tenures) and their time-scale promotions will be withheld until they clear the test.
The personnel also won’t be eligible for accelerated promotion, or be recommended for awards. Moreover, they will be marked as non-eligible for volunteer courses and grant of re-engagement by units.
In case officers fail to qualify PETs even after 270 days, they will be issued show cause notices, three months after which “suitable administrative action” will be taken against them. Sailors will be penalised in a similar fashion.
Another senior Navy officer said a “suitable administrative action” in this context could also mean removal from service.
“Earlier, the physical fitness standards were maintained more at an individual’s level, but now they have been made more unit-oriented. For instance, the warning to be issued by COs after a certain time period… They have linked fixed durations of failure in PET to specific administrative actions,” the second officer said.
While warnings used to be issued earlier too, there were no specific time-frames with listed punitive actions against them.
The officer also said while fitness is maintained largely by most naval personnel, the move is aimed at a small percentage of personnel who were possibly not taking the PETs seriously.
The new guidelines say the PETs for both sailors and officers would be conducted every six months at command and fleet headquarters.
Revised standards for fitness
The existing PET standards have been revised in the new guidelines, making them more stringent with a reduced grade spectrum. The parameters are specific for age groups, and for men and women naval personnel.
For instance, a 300-metre shuttle run has been reintroduced as a new parameter for the PETs, which male personnel have to complete within 65 seconds, and women personnel below 30 years of age within 90 seconds.
Similarly, dives into swimming pools — from a height of 5m as against the earlier norm of 3m — have been made compulsory for all male personnel except those aged above 50. For female personnel, a 5-metre dive is compulsory for those below 45 years.
For females in the age group 45-50, a 1-km run has to be completed within 10 and a half minutes. For men in the same age group, a 1.5-km run has to be completed within 13 minutes.
Additionally, the Navy would also keep a tab on obese naval personnel. The guidelines also ask commands to conduct surprise tests of units under them to check the physical fitness of personnel.
All three military services have mandatory physical proficiency tests, which personnel have to qualify once a year.