Army short of over 32,000 soldiers: Antony to House

In what is being seen as a first in recent times, the Defence Ministry has said that the Army is short of over 32,000 soldiers even as the gap in officer strength has fallen over the past two years. In the past, the MoD has always held that there are no significant shortages in the Personnel Below Officer Ranks category but has always expressed concern on officer shortages.

Defence Minster A K Antony informed Parliament on Monday that the shortage of soldiers in the Army stood at 32,431 as of September 2011. This massive shortage is on account of the raising of two new divisions by the Army that are positioned in the Eastern sector. The new divisions, one each under the command of the 3 Corps and 4 Corps, required an enhancement of the Army's personnel strength by 36,000.

As the Army has pulled together resources from its current holdings and formations to set up the new infantry divisions, this has reflected in a significant shortage in its authorised personnel strength, particularly in PBORs that form the bulk of the fighting force.

The Army is now likely to see an acceleration in the recruitment of soldiers and creation of new units, even though the gap will take some time to fill, given the constrains of training facilities as well as institutions.

The new raisings by the Army — cleared in 2009 — are a first in decades and are geared towards increasing its hold over the Northeast and the border with China. The two divisions will be augmented in the coming years with a new mountain strike corps that the Army has been demanding. The proposal is currently stuck as the government has asked for the opinion of the three services before giving it financial clearance.

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