By Col Mohinder Pal Singh
From a pool of about 1.4 million soldiers of Indian defence forces including 42000 officers approximately 3500 officers and 50,000 JCOs and Jawans retire every year. Most of the officers are in the age group of 54 to 58 though some, especially from short service commission, are in age group of 35-40 . Approximately 10000 JCOs and 40000 other ranks also retire alongside who are in much lower age bracket ranging from 35-50 years. As Jawans or generally referred to them as OR (covers rank upto Havildar) are generally absorbed in large number of vacancies in Police, paramilitary forces and other government and public sector organisations which have adequate reservations for them the JCOs and officers, by virtue of retiring late do not get these benefits. It is a known fact that a physically fit person in India can do a job till 60, professionals almost till 65-70 and businessmen even upto 75 and at times even beyond. That means physically fit armymen have at least 10-15 years of active and productive life even after retirement where they can contribute meaningfully to the society. Right now these 3500 officers and 10000 JCOs are inundating the already glutted corporate job market for which they are actually overqualified.
Unable to sit idle at home after a super-active service life and unable to clear qualifying written exams for government jobs at this stage of their life, most of them settle down for jobs much lower in positions as well as salaries. The prime reason is the eligibility fixation of traditional university degrees with each job or a tough written exam which requires months of preparation and based on rote learning. A defence officer may have been a instructor during his service but the teaching profession expects them to clear the NET or do a B.Ed before he is considered for a teaching, he may have handled multi-facet HR functions but the corporate sector wants him to be an MBA and show experience in the corporate sector, he may have handled finances and accounts but the banking sector wants him to have a degree in financial analysis. The other governmental organisations like Railways, ministries, public sector undertakings, or even the uniformed police and paramilitary forces do not allow smooth side-stepping of Army officers or JCOs in similar ranks.
Multitude of endeavours have been put by all three services i.e Army Navy and Airforce to help the retirees in getting jobs yet there is a large gap not only in the area of getting a second career but bigger gap lies in getting the job befitting your age and experience. Director General of Resettlement is an organisation under the umbrella of MoD which is making an outreach in facilitating training of the retirees form all the three services . They have formed various nodes which act as an interface between the industry and the retirees. In spite of all these efforts there is a dire need to not only in doing some policy changes but also relaxations in terms of university degrees and waving of certain criterions in favour of tremendous experience.
From Job Seekers to Job Giver
These defence forces retirees especially the officers and JCOs who have put in 25-30 years of service and tenanted different roles in their service ranging from HR, teaching, motivational , administration, accounts, training, supply chain, operations, technological expertise etc can gainfully be converted from 'job seekers to job givers'. All these responsibilities have been held by them in not only the execution role but also in the leadership and decision-making role. With this experience they are ideally suited for the role of an 'Entrepreneur'. They are the ideally suited candidates for the government's 'Start Up India' scheme. As in the defence forces , so in the entrepreneurship leadership plays and important role and the defence forces personal are undoubtedly gifted with it. Here is an important untapped potential which just need to be trained and channelised. There is a big initiative required to create 'incubation hubs' across the country which not only give initial training on how to set up an enterprise but also provide the basic infrastructure and services for new enterprises to incubate. Hand -holding for a couple of years will launch them into a mode of success. With this initiative each retiree can not only get a role for himself in society but also be able to give jobs to many. It will not only give him a tremendous satisfaction but also provide employment to hundreds of unemployed Indians. Its time that the respective services i.e Army , Navy and Airforce also create their own incubators and motivate their personnel to get into start ups for the products which are required for their respective services. They could consider outsourcing the CSD outlets(as was done in the 50s and 60s), 'packers and movers' services , manufacturing of defence equipment, security services, other services in field and border areas can be some of the many fields where the defence forces personnel can set up small enterprises. The MoD and the service headquarters can just and give them a launch pad.
Converting a defence officer from a 'job seeker to a job giver' will prove to be a shot in the arm for the Indian job market. It is not difficult and it is the need of the hour. Creating 8-10k 'job givers', every year will give a fillip to our veterans status, help them utilise their leadership acumen once again and create thousands of job for the economy.
(Col Mohinder Pal Singh, PhD(retd) is an army veteran and presently heading a start up AMAS Training. Viers are personal)