New Delhi: A disruption in recruitment due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the continuing stalemate in eastern Ladakh has prompted the Indian Army to stop all premature retirement of soldiers in the Regiment of Artillery from 1 September.
Army sources told ThePrint that as a result of the pandemic, planned fresh recruitment, training and induction of recruits have been delayed.
“Therefore, as a temporary measure, in order to optimise manning level in Artillery, PMR (premature retirement) has been temporarily suspended,” an Army source said. “However, genuine and extreme compassionate cases as per laid down policy are being sent on PMR.”
The source added, “The Indian Army is in regular touch with state governments to ascertain early dates for resumption of the recruitment process, post which these instructions will be reviewed.”
Senior Army officers confirmed to ThePrint that a directive against premature retirement has been issued by the Army headquarters, which has also been fuelled by the extensive troop deployment in eastern Ladakh.
The directive is applicable to ranks other than officers of the Artillery regiment. It is also applicable to those whose premature retirement, after 31 August, had been approved.
Premature retirement refers to the decision of some service personnel to opt out of the Army on completion of pensionable service, well before their slated retirement age. It varies according to the ranks.
While the directive is specially for the Artillery regiment, the Army sources also indicated that there has been reduction in sanction of premature retirement applications in other arms and services of the Army as well.
The Regiment of Artillery is the second largest arm of the Indian Army and has played a crucial role in counter-insurgency operations in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly during the Kargil conflict of 1999, and the Northeast.
The regiment is classified into various units depending on the weaponry (calibre of guns) at their disposal and the role they play during combat. They include Light Regiments, Field Regiments, Medium Regiments, Rocket Regiments, Missiles Regiments, SATA Regiment and Batteries.
‘Situation at LAC prompts move’
The situation in eastern Ladakh continues to remain volatile, with multiple levels of India-China military-level and diplomatic talks yielding little progress in resolving the stalemate.
Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Bipin Rawat has also said that India has “military options” to deal with the Chinese on the issue of transgressions if talks between both the countries at the military and diplomatic levels don’t yield results.
Both the Indian and Chinese militaries have deployed artillery guns extensively along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) along with other equipment, to support infantry and armoured regiments, for operations.
A senior Army officer said while there is a shortage of officers in the Indian Army, there is no shortage in other ranks as of yet.
“While the intake of soldiers is planned in consonance with the scheduled retirement, premature retirees moving out suddenly leaves a vacuum,” he said. “With the selection and training process, this deficiency would take approximately one year to fill up.”
“With the current state of deployment, it is not viable to keep any such vacuum,” the officer added.