From Statesman Editorial

MILITARY parlance would tend to have the term “assets” refer to weapons and systems, back-up equipment etc. These items figure prominently on every wish-list, but do not always find inclusion in the shopping list. It was therefore refreshing to note the Chief of the Naval Staff stressing the need to develop “human capital” when he addressed the recent Commanders’ Conference. It was quite a sea change from the traditional accent on new acquisitions, upgraded facilities and exhortation to live up to service traditions. Sure, it could be argued that every military organisation appreciates the importance of the man behind the machine, but since a chief’s message at such events also reaches out to the public (at least selected sections of it) the signal to the larger community is not irrelevant. What Admiral Nirmal Verma has succeeded in conveying is that the Navy is committed to fully, and effectively, exploiting the material assets that the nation has provided it at considerable cost: all too frequently the military community seems to ignore the reality that the gigantic budgetary provisions for defence are gleaned from taxpayer’s money. Given its increasing responsibilities, which are dictated by more than the China factor, the Navy is in need of boosting its manpower (estimates range from 15 to 25 per cent) to match the upgrade in ships and related equipment.

However, it has not only realised that the “quality” of manpower counts, it has set about developing what the Admiral described as human capital. A few years hence all new officers will be required to have secured a B.Tech. degree and it has “worked up” its own educational institutions to cater to that requirement: even going as far as introducing a revised 10+2 entry system which will see the cadets acquiring the technical standards before moving on to being trained in Navy-specific subjects. True the Navy is a “small” service in terms of numbers, but the task remains demanding. The welcome stress on the in-house development of human resources is in keeping with the Navy’s sustained effort at self-reliance. Four decades ago, when it received a “bum deal” as far as its share of the defence budget went, it actively involved itself in the indigenous design, development and construction of major warships. Many of its most potent platforms are desi, they have impressed other marine forces ~ while neither the Tejas LCA nor the MBT Arjun have quite made the grade.

(This article is taken from the Editorial section of the Stateman , which appeared on October 21, 2011)
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