Why universities should consider UGC’s proposal to recognise NCC

Overall, the NCC structure needs to evolve in a direction in which the youth, regardless of socio-economic background, are drawn to it as a means of advancing both character and career and rendering national service.

On April 15, the University Grants Commission (UGC) forwarded for consideration to all vice-chancellors of universities across India a proposal of the Directorate General, National Cadet Corps (NCC), aimed at including NCC as an elective subject in curricula. If this is implemented, NCC will become a part of the Choice-Based Credit System (CBCS) envisioned in the National Education Policy (NEP) 2020. It will permit students enrolled as NCC cadets to receive academic credits for NCC training, and avail employment incentives offered under various central and state government schemes.

NCC is the world’s largest uniformed youth volunteer organisation. With a footprint covering thousands of educational institutions across the country, it has a better gender ratio than any other uniformed organisation in the country with girl cadets accounting for one-third of the total. As in the Indian armed forces, the NCC’s army wing dwarfs the navy and air force wings in terms of numbers.

Recently, the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) announced entry schemes following a concerted effort by the Directorate General NCC, in addition to the preferential treatment given to NCC cadets in recruitment to posts in state police departments, fire services, forest departments, and others. The biggest incentive for the youth, however, is the pride that stems from wearing a uniform, though many state-level NCC directorates are unfortunately unable to provide that incentive due to paucity of funds.

In theory, state governments are required to share the expenditure with the Ministry of Defence, and defray the expenses on pay and allowances of the local employees of the state NCC directorate, apart from providing for office accommodation, furniture, transportation for the local units, and their officials. They are also supposed to share the financial burden of running regular NCC camps for cadets in the state. In practice, very few states meet their full obligations, creating financial distress for local directorates despite the huge support provided by the Centre. This hurts the core elements of NCC training, the creation of necessary infrastructure, and the financial management of programmes.

NCC training has a transformative effect, making cadets more disciplined and committed. They learn to relate to common people including during crises and empathise with larger social and developmental causes. However, there is also a view that cadets should not be deployed randomly by the local administration as mascots at VIP events, for crowd and traffic management at festivals, and for unrelated “social service” activities. Such activities should not become a substitute for core training.

Ironically, one of the biggest impediments to making the NCC more attractive to the youth is the attitude of the armed forces. An NCC posting is equated to being “sidelined”. Instead of deploying their best and brightest as role models, there is a tendency to depute those who are medically unfit or regarded as “disgruntled”, often on their last posting. It is well-known that a vast majority of good officers get superseded in the pyramid-like structure of the armed forces and some of them, both competent and motivated, are also deployed with the NCC.

Though one should avoid making a broad generalisation, the fact remains that few officers on NCC assignments return to their service. Some have to be reverted because they fail to meet the standards. Fewer still move on to higher ranks upon returning. In the case of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Other Ranks (OR) who are sent to the NCC as Permanent Instructor (PI) Staff, many do return and get promoted.

The general attitude in the armed forces that the NCC is some kind of a dumping ground needs to change. NCC tenures should result in extra credit in promotions. This will ensure over time that the senior echelons of the armed forces have sufficient exposure to Indian society and its aspirations.

In expanding the NCC, the government must ensure that the states provide adequate infrastructure for training and administrative functions as well as logistical support. Additionally, the quality of the local training staff such as the Associate National Cadet Corps Officers (ANOs), and their career advancement must also be assured. This would attract better human resources to the NCC programme.

Ninety-nine per cent of the inductees into the armed forces from the NCC join as jawans. This may not be surprising since a large majority of NCC cadets come from relatively disadvantaged sections of society. They regard the training and exposure provided as a pathway to better economic opportunities. Cadets from more privileged sections of society do join the NCC but do so largely for the thrill of donning a uniform, participating in adventure activities, and undergoing weapons training.

Overall, the NCC structure needs to evolve in a direction in which the youth, regardless of socio-economic background, are drawn to it as a means of advancing both character and career and rendering national service. A better mix of cadets will promote cohesion among the youth, particularly through the camaraderie experienced during training camps. It may also result in better intake into the “officer” stream of the armed forces and higher management in other sectors, both public and private.

The UGC has taken a good step but whether the universities will accept the proposal is not assured. At least in the case of the universities where it is on offer, the NCC must evolve from being an extra-curricular activity to an elective subject with course credits. While it may well remain a voluntary pursuit, the NCC ought to be integrated into the national educational policy and made a formal part of university syllabi.

This column first appeared in the print edition on May 12, 2021 under the title ‘Credits for cadets’. The writer was a Senior Under Officer in the Army Wing-Infantry of the 3rd Gujarat Battalion Vadodara in 1977. He is currently DG of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Views expressed are personal

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