Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Defence Services as a Career Option

The Armed Forces as a Career Option – Then and Now
Musings of a Military (Navy) Veteran

I am often asked the quintessential question: 

“If you had to live your life again  will you still join the Navy...?”

I answer: 

“YES – and  NO...

Let me explain.

If I could go back in time  and  if I could turn the clock back by 40 years to the 1970’s  then I will certainly join the Navy.

Yes  if I can reverse the clock back in time – 40 years back in time  to the 1970’s – then – I will join the Navy.

But  if I cannot turn the clock back  then I will not join the Navy.

If in today’s world  I possess the same qualifications as I did way back then in the 1970’s (when I joined the Navy) – B. Tech. in Electronics and Communication Engineering  then  in present day circumstances  the Navy is certainly not an attractive career option for me  since  nowadays  there are so many impressive, exciting, lucrative, rewarding and prestigious career options available for a bright young engineer – which are far superior to a career in the Defence Services.

I think the turning point was the advent of liberalisation and globalisation – and  the consequent paradigm shift in economic policy in 1991.

In the 1970’s and in the pre-liberalisation days there was no great disparity in pay and career prospects between the navy and civilian jobs. 

Those days  I remember that the salaries and career prospects in the Navy (and Defence Services) were comparable to those in the civilian corporate world and industry. 

In fact  there was a glamour attached to uniform which gave us Naval Officers a sense of pride which outweighed the slight salary advantage our counterparts in the civvy street enjoyed.

Post 1991  as liberalisation set in  the economy and scenario began to rapidly change  and now  the flow of liberalisation is unstoppable, inescapable and irreversible.

With increasing liberalisation and globalisation soon there was an investment boom, a financial boom, an industry boom, an IT/ITES and Software boom – there were so many booms  the “growth story”  and  everything changed.

Today  there is no glamour attached to uniform  and  in fact  it is the corporate sector  and  careers in Business, Finance and Information Technology that have become glamorous.

Today  everyone knows the names of the Corporate Czars and successful businessmen  and bright young Entrepreneurs are the toast of society.

In contrast  if you talk to youngsters  you will realize that hardly anyone knows the names of our Defence Chiefs (Army, Navy and Air Force Chiefs) – unless they get embroiled in some controversy or scam which is given publicity by the media. 

Yes – frequent media reports of the unethical conduct of senior military officers has certainly taken off the sheen from the erstwhile shining image of the Defence Services – and the Defence Officers do not enjoy the respect in society which they earlier did.

Change is inevitable.

And  things have indeed changed  with the rapid progress of liberalisation and globalisation.

Unfortunately  the “steeped in tradition” Armed Forces seem to have been caught in a time warp  because of resistance to change  owing to the deeply entrenched Auld Lang Syne Complex.

Many feel that the Defence Services have an archaic colonial feudal culture which is not in sync with modern aspirations. 

Yes  the archaic service culture seems to be out of sync with the aspirations of the bright young people of today who are highly educated knowledgeable smart well-informed career-focussed success-oriented and ambitious.  

Whereas the civilian industry has gone way ahead post liberalisation  even the Civil Services are much better off than the Defence Services as far as career prospects are concerned.

Earlier – Salaries and Perks of Defence Services were higher than Civil Services – but – now – with successive pay commissions changing the balance in favour of the civil services – the career prospects of the civil services are far superior to those of the Armed Forces – and – the Defence Services have been reduced to begging for parity with the civil services.

So  if I were a well-qualified engineer from a premier institution in today’s world – rather than join the Navy (or Defence Services)  I would certainly like to explore better career options with excellent career prospects which are more likely to fulfill my aspirations and enable me to grow intellectually, realize my maximum potential by allowing me to make full use of my talents, earn money, create wealth and achieve material success to have a good standard of living and quality of life and accomplish something significant in life.

In the 1970’s the Navy was a great place to be in – the Navy was not a mere job  the Navy was a way of life. 

Yes – in the 1970’s  the Defence Services were a great place to be in.


You tell me.

Let me end on a lighter note.

When I joined the Navy (in the 1970’s)  there was a recruitment slogan: 


Things have turned topsy-turvy  haven’t they?

Today  you have a better chance of seeing the world in a civilian job  especially if you are a Techie in the IT Industry. 

So – in conclusion – I will say – that – in today’s world  if I am fresh Engineering Graduate from a Premier Institution (IIT/NIT etc) – I will certainly not join the Navy (or Defence Services) – but – I will explore the plethora of attractive career options available in the civvy street”.

By the way – the Navy probably realised – that – post liberalisation – good engineering graduates from premier institutions would not be inclined join the Navy – so – Navy downsized the University Entry Scheme – and – decided to produce captive engineers “in-house via the 10+2 (NEC) Scheme (this scheme was later copied by the Army to produce “in-house” B. Tech. degree “Dapodi Engineers” at CME)

Of course now – all cadets who pass out of the Indian Naval Academy (INA) are B. Tech. Engineers. 


So – Dear Reader – if you ask me the quintessential question:

“If you had to live your life again  will you still join the Navy...?”

I will answer:

“YES (if I could turn the clock back by 40 years to the 1970’s) – but  NO (in today’s world)...

Copyright © Vikram Karve 
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1. This article is based on my own experience and represents my personal views which may not be universal in nature and may not apply to you. You must make your own career decisions with due diligence.
2All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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This is a revised repost of my article WILL YOU JOIN THE NAVY (The Armed Forces as a Career Option – Then and Now) posted online my me Vikram Karve in my Academic and Creative Writing Journal Blog at url:

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