The Indian Air Force may change the rules of promotion for its officers that would allow group captains to become air commodores faster amid high rates of pilots quitting the service. The development has come amid a high number of pilots taking premature retirement or what the air force calls premature separation from service (PSS) in recent years. Factors including better salary and stagnant promotion in the IAF, are playing a major role that is forcing to a major chunk of pilots to join private airlines.
As per a report published in Hindustan Times, more than 200 mid-career pilots took premature retirement in 2018-19. In fact, the total number of applications received by the IAF for premature retirement during this period was more than 300, out of which only 200 were released. One of the officials privy to the development added, "The number of officers who were allowed to leave is too high. According to our assessment, if more than 60 pilots quit every year, it can cause an imbalance in our functioning. We cannot allow the numbers to go beyond what is acceptable."
Multi-pronged approach to tackle a high rate of premature retirement
The IAF is now handling this dire issue by adopting a multi-pronged approach. It is considering factors including reviewing the promotion policy to remove stagnation, tightening the eligibility criteria for granting PSS, giving officers greater clarity about career growth and flexible human resource policy to address issues related to postings, tenure and family requirements. Among all these factors, the promotion policy is one specific area where is IAF is focusing the most. The force is reviewing the promotion procedure to remove a major hurdle at a critical career juncture – the group captain level (equivalent to a colonel in the army).
The official further went on to add, "It can take up to 13 years for a group captain to be promoted as an air commodore (equivalent to a brigadier). We are examining the possibility of bringing it down to around 10 years to address the aspirations of officers." The attraction towards fat paycheques in the private airline industry is another big factor. For instance, a mid-career IAF earns around Rs. 2 lakh excluding the other perks could earn four times higher if he opts to join a private airline.