The Ministry of Defence has cleared the Indian Army’s proposal to shutdown the Officers Training Academy (OTA) in Gaya opened after the Kargil conflict in the hope that more youngsters would queue up to join the Armed Forces. But with few takers owing to a failure to attract youngsters, the OTA had been functioning under-utilised.
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With the Army continuing to fail to attract enough bright youngsters with requisite officer-like qualities, the force plans to shut down its Officers’ Training Academy (OTA) in Gaya, Bihar. The academy currently trains just about 250 cadets, including foreign ones, when it is supposed to handle 750 every year.
The Indian Military Academy (IMA) in Dehradun, the main cradle for officers, and the OTA in Chennai will take in more cadets every year because their capacities too are under-utilised. The Sikh Light Infantry regimental centre will shift to the OTA premises in Gaya from its existing location in Fatehgarh in Uttar Pradesh.
“The Army’s cost-saving proposal to shut down the Gaya OTA, which was opened in 2011 in the hope that many more youngsters will queue up to join the armed forces after the 1999 Kargil conflict, is with the government. The transition process is being worked out,” a source said.
While the IMA caters for permanent commission (PC) officers, the Chennai OTA is for short-service commission (SSC) men and women officers. The Gaya OTA runs the technical entry scheme after Class 12 for PC officers as well as the SCO (special commissioned officers) scheme for other ranks.
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The Gaya OTA has trained over 70 foreign cadets from countries like Bhutan, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Myanmar since 2011. “Both IMA and Chennai OTA can easily accommodate more cadets. IMA, for instance, has a capacity for 1,650 cadets but trains around 1,300,” the source said.
There is, however, some disquiet over the plan to shut down the Gaya OTA when the 13-lakh strong Army is grappling with a shortage in its officer cadre. The force is currently short of around 7,400 officers in its authorized strength of 50,312, with most of the vacancies being in the “fighting or non-select ranks” of lieutenant colonels and below.
The reasons for the failure to attract youngsters range from the perceived high degree of risk in military careers – whether it is battling terrorists or being posted in far-flung areas, and frequent disruptions in family life and education of children to poor promotional avenues in the steeply-pyramidal structures of the armed forces.
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The long-pending package to make SSC more attractive for youngsters, with proposed measures ranging from grant of paid study leave to a golden handshake at the end of their tenures of 10 to 14 years, in the backdrop of the continuing shortage of officers and the urgent need for cadre restructuring, is yet to be approved.
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Rajat Pandit for Times of India with comments from GreatGameIndia, a journal on Geopolitics and International Relations. Send in your tips and submissions by filling out this form or write to us directly at the email provided.
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