How to Breathe new life into NCC?

Not many would know that in our country, the National Cadet Corps has a staggering strength of 13 lakh cadets on its rolls, while the Indian Army stands at approximately 12.5 lakhs. This is not a comparison but to highlight that we need to rise to the aspirations of a large chunk of motivated youth. […]

Not many would know that in our country, the National Cadet Corps has a staggering strength of 13 lakh cadets on its rolls, while the Indian Army stands at approximately 12.5 lakhs. This is not a comparison but to highlight that we need to rise to the aspirations of a large chunk of motivated youth. This excellent organization has stood the test of time since July 15, 1948, the day it was formed. Each year on Republic Day, its cadets get a standing ovation from the audience when they march past the saluting dais on Rajpath due to their youthful exuberance. As a Group Commander who has commanded the NCC Groups in Jharkhand and Punjab, I strongly feel that these young cadets deserve a far better deal. It is high time to revisit this potent organization to unlock its true potential. At the outset, it would be worthwhile to briefly dwell on the rationale for its raising.

Initially, in 1917, the ‘University Corps’ was created under the Indian Defence Act to make up for the shortage of manpower in the Army. In 1942, it was re-christened as the University Officers’ Training Corps. In 1949, the Girls Division was added to the University Officers’ Training Corps. In 1950, it was lent an inter-service flavor by adding the Air Wing. In 1952, the Naval Wing was included, leading to complete tri-service integration. In 1963, after the war with China, NCC training was made compulsory. This compulsory NCC training continued only till 1968. Thereafter, enrollment into NCC was made voluntary. NCC syllabus was revised in which military training periods were reduced, and greater importance was given to social service. Notwithstanding the above, in the 1965 and 1971 wars, the NCC cadets proved their mettle almost acting as the second line of defense. They assisted the supply chain in the smooth supply of arms and ammunition to the troops fighting on the front. The cadets patrolled the hinterland, thereby serving as an effective deterrent, especially to the enemy paratroopers. NCC cadets worked hand in glove with the civil defense authorities and actively took part in rescue work and traffic control.

Let’s move fast forward and take a look at the current structure of NCC. Currently, NCC has 17 NCC Directorates, 97 Groups, and 825 units. It speaks volumes of its popularity across the length and breadth of our country. NCC consists of male cadets of Junior Division (JD), primarily students of Class 8th and 9th, and Senior Division (SD), the male cadets doing graduation. The girls are categorized similarly, however, the word ‘Wing’ is suffixed viz Junior Wing (JW) & Senior Wing (SW). The senior cadets in NCC have a far greater potential to play an active role during the war for obvious reasons which we must capitalize on. During the hot war, these senior NCC cadets should be tasked to ensure the security of the hinterland and our communication zone through which our fighting troops and logistics elements are being moved towards the border. Therefore, it will do our nation good in case we invest more in terms of training and funding of the senior cadets rather than on the school-going junior cadets.

As there is a fixed number of instructors that the Army can provide to the NCC battalions, there is an urgent need to transfer the vacancies allotted for junior cadets to senior cadets. We also need to modify the syllabus of NCC wherein training young blood to join the armed forces should be NCC’s first and foremost aim. Primarily, young children undergoing graduate courses join NCC to earn the ‘C’ certificate which exempts them from the tough written CDS exam thereby earning them a backdoor entry for the SSB interview. This is what mainly attracts a large number of youths to NCC. Young kids look towards NCC as a vehicle to take them to their long-cherished dream of joining the armed forces. They look forward to the training curriculum which fulfills their aspirations. We need to cater to such a training curriculum focused on achieving these objectives. We must ensure that such aspirations are adequately met by empowering them with the skills required to crack the SSB. All NCC battalions need to have basic infrastructure such as an SSB obstacle course and competent faculty to train them for SSB. Currently, it is woefully inadequate.
Almost all the NCC battalions are understaffed. This vacuum so created has given rise to a large number of SWOT shops or so-called coaching academies that have sprouted all over the country. We also need to modify the funding pattern for the conduct of various NCC camps and miscellaneous activities. The current system is too complicated involving partial funding from central govt funds and the balance from state funds with varying percentages in different states for different funds. To make the funding, expenditure, and accounting smooth, all the funds need to be catered by the central govt only.

Each year, NCC cadets represent their respective states in three major competitions, i.e., Inter Directorate Republic Day Contingent, Inter Directorate Thal Sena, and Inter Directorate Shooting. We need to delegate these three competitions to all the respective state Directorates which will save a humungous amount in crores to the national exchequer. This saved money can be channeled for infrastructural development at the battalion level. Currently, due to undue emphasis on these three competitions, all the Directorates are singularly focused on training their respective teams for these three competitions. This has a severe dampener effect on the normal training of an ordinary NCC cadet. Getting selected for these three competitions involves a cadet aspirant attending several camps forcing him or her to skip the normal academic curriculum. This is the prime reason which keeps the bright students away from NCC.

Currently, the incentives to the NCC cadets for admissions to Universities and various job opportunities vary from state to state. This also needs to be uniform across the board for all the states to be authorized by a central govt notification. Another aspect that requires attention is the crying need for the State’s NCC Additional Director General (ADG) to be the Head of Department (HOD) in all states. This will give him full powers of postings and promotions over the civilian staff who form the bedrock of the NCC functioning in all the states. In the present form, the ADG of the rank of Major General heading the state NCC Directorate has no powers in the postings and promotions of the civilian staff. The fresh recruitment for the civilian staff needs to be done at the central government level and not at the state level. Thereafter, the civilian staff should be liable to get posted out every two years to a new place anywhere in the country like in the case of Army personnel. Currently, most of the civilian staff spend years sitting in the same place right till their retirement which results in malfeasance at lower levels.

These are the vital rudimentary changes that, if brought about in NCC, will give the much-desired fillip to the organization and help it in becoming a stronger pillar of our nation.

He commanded 15 Punjab in Lebanon under the UN flag in 2006 and was picked up to command the Assam Rifles Sector as DIG in the most sensitive sector of Churachandpur in Manipur. For his outstanding command in Manipur, he was selected as ‘Brigadier Operational Logistics’ for the entire Western Command in 2015.

Brig. Advitya Madan