New Delhi: Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat Thursday weighed in on reports that the Army is looking to offer a three-year voluntary stint, or ‘Tour of Duty’, to boost recruitment, saying the proposal is yet at a nascent stage.
In an interaction with a small group of journalists Thursday, General Rawat acknowledged that the Army is considering new concepts of temporary recruitment to address the shortage of officers, but suggested that these won’t affect the Short Service Commission (SSC).
The Army, he said, is looking to make SSC more “lucrative” for officers who eventually don’t make the cut for permanent service.
‘If not pension, then what?’
The SSC allows people to join the Army as officers for a 14-year tenure. Once their tenure expires, the officers may opt out or avail of permanent commission subject to eligibility.
General Rawat cited the steep pyramid in the armed forces to state the military establishment wants some officers to join the force under the SSC. To make the prospect more appealing for applicants, he said, the military is looking at offering them incentives.
“For an officer who will just serve for 14 years, you don’t want to give him a pension, what then can you do for them? Can you give him training that will make him stand on his feet?” Rawat said.
“We were looking at one stage, can we make him do a one-year MBA? Or if someone has joined the service with a BTech degree, can we make him do a two-year MTech? Or can we offer him ECHS (ex-servicemen contributory health scheme) so that his medicals (expenses) are taken care of?” he added, saying the military will have to “look at some incentive to attract him (applicants) and get him to the service”.
The idea, Rawat said, is to ensure an SSC member competes to get permanent commission but has adequate back-up even if they don’t.
As an incentive, a lump sum amount should also be paid to the SSC officers on retirement, he added. “We are yet to decide on the amount,” he said.
Making the SSC a lucrative career option has been a long-pending reform, especially within the Army.
General Rawat had also made a push in this direction while making a submission before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence earlier this year. The submission centred on plans to reduce the expenses on defence pensions, and greater SSC recruitment was among the suggestions offered.
On ‘Tour of Duty’
CDS Bipin Rawat also weighed in on reports that the Army is studying new ways to address its shortage of personnel, including officers, through other means of temporary recruitment.
As reported by ThePrint Wednesday, the proposals include Tour of Duty, which aims at offering a three-year military stint to youngsters as officers and jawans, and Inverse Induction, which will bring central armed police forces (CAPF) recruits into the Army for seven-year tenures before being repatriated.
Asked about the potential impact of Tour of Duty on SSC, the CDS said the concept is yet at a nascent stage and under the Army chief’s consideration. If it works out, it’s good, he said, but added that its viability needs to be studied.
“It will require a year of training. The tour of duty will be in Kashmir and the northeast… One year of training cost… equipping him and doing everything for him and then losing him after four years. Is it going to balance out? It will require a study,” he said.
The idea of voluntary three-year service, which the government may also extend to the Navy and the Air Force if it’s brought in for the Army, has generated a lot of interest and debate within and outside the defence community.
1. Sir, where's the problem in keeping it at 5 years as was always the case for short service scheme? Only to avoid gratuity and benefits? In India there will be no dearth of applicants whatever is introduced. We have SSC, we have TA, why a new scheme? +https://t.co/XbCYZkTeok
— Navdeep Singh (@SinghNavdeep) May 14, 2020
Talking to ThePrint, a senior Naval officer said Tour of Duty is an interesting concept that is being discussed as a remedy to many issues plaguing the services.
“This concept has also been recommended earlier in different forms and ideas. It now remains to be seen how the concept is executed on the ground to suit the specific necessities of each service while meeting the overall aims of reducing the pension bill and addressing the shortage of personnel in the services.”