New Delhi: The nearly 40,000-strong Territorial Army (TA) is set to undergo major changes as the Indian military plans to recalibrate it for better operational and intelligence roles, especially in the Andaman Islands to keep an eye out for possible Chinese intrusion in the region.
The TA — a voluntary force that is the second line of defence after the Indian Army — Monday got its first Director General, Lt Gen. D.P. Pandey. He had earlier led the Army’s information warfare wing and has also commanded the Kilo Force, which takes care of anti-terror operations in Kupwara, Baramulla and Srinagar areas of Kashmir.
The TA was until now headed by an ADG rank officer, a major general, even though the DG position was vacant for quite some time. With the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) and Department of Military Affairs headed by Gen Bipin Rawat, the TA now comes under him rather than the Army Chief.
“There is a re-focus on the TA on how it can be better used for military roles and also to be the proper eyes and ears of the forces in far-flung areas,” a top military official told ThePrint.
The plans come in the wake of CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat stating in a recent interaction with the media that reducing the cost of running the military could be helped through “TAisation”, a reference to giving the force more responsibilities.
“The TA is being operationally deployed more over the past few years and hence it is time to ensure that it is exploited fully,” another senior officer told ThePrint.
Increased TA role in the Andamans
Sources said that efforts are on to increase the TA strength in the Andamans by adding extra companies to the existing two TA battalions.
The creation of new battalions will be costlier as compared to adding extra companies. Sources said that one of the main concerns in the Andaman Islands is the possibility of Chinese intrusion.
“We have a large number of islands that cannot be monitored and hence the fear is that there could be some sort of intrusion into the islands or economic zone or someone could get an easy passage,” an officer explained.
“The TA recruits come from these very areas. When they are not embodied, they work as taxi drivers, fishermen among others,” the officer said. “So even when they are not actively with the TA, they can easily become the eyes and ears of the military.
“Some can be given a group of islands and their job will be to take their boats to these islands to make sure no unusual activity is taking place,” the officer added.
Who qualifies to be in TA
The TA’s present role is to relieve the regular Army from static duties and to assist the civil administration in dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services when normal life is disturbed or when the security of the country is under threat.
They are also supposed to provide units for the Army as and when required.
While any Indian male citizen between the age of 18 to 42 years and having a Graduate Degree, is eligible for TA, they have to be gainfully employed in Central Government/Union Territory /State Government /Semi Government/ Private Sector or self-employed.
The English had raised the Territorial Army in 1920 through the Indian Territorial Act of 1920 and it comprised of two wings — ‘The Auxiliary Force’ for Europeans and Anglo-Indians, and ‘The Indian Territorial Force’ for Indian volunteers.
At present, the TA has departmental units like the Railway, IOC and ONGC. Non-Departmental TA units of the Infantry Battalion (TA) include the Home and Hearth Battalions, Ecological Battalion (TA) affiliated to various Infantry Regiments, and the Engineer Regiment (TA) for maintenance of the fencing at the Line of Control.
The TA soldiers are usually embodied for two months in a year during which they undergo training unless otherwise needed for other purposes and duration.
The TA units were actively involved in 1962, 1965 and 1971 operations.