Indian Army personnel | Representational image | ANI
Indian Army personnel | Representational image | ANI
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The leaked excerpts from an internal study of the Army advocating the concept of three-year Tour of Duty is yet another reminder that the military hierarchy revels in using media to make politically loaded statements and as a sounding board for its ‘hunch and gut’ ideas, often in complete disregard of the repository of knowledge available. Most of these ideas come to a nought after detailed examination.

The Tour of Duty proposal, which aims to reduce the burden of defence pensions and make up for the shortage of officers in the Army, is more in tune with the current Right-wing flavour of the nation and carries political undertones. “Unemployment in our country is a reality, however there is a resurgence of nationalism and patriotism,” reads the proposal.

It should be clear to the discerning reader that the Tour of Duty is a poorly conceived scheme, which falls short of both individual and organisational needs. Internal surveys of the armed forces over the years have indicated that patriotism is not the main motivation for joining it. A stable, well-paid job is. Since the Israel model of three-year military service is a favourite of the right wing, it is pertinent to mention that it is conscripted mandatory national service and not driven by patriotism per se. To even think of neo-nationalism as a motivator is most dangerous. We will only end up creating potential political militias.

Also, the Tour of Duty should be for a minimum of five years to enable the individuals to earn gratuity as per government policy. It should be covered by the National Pension Scheme and 50 per cent intake should be based on this. The Narendra Modi government should make the scheme as attractive as its finances allow and through preferential treatment in all spheres of government activity post-retirement. The terms and conditions should be very clear and withstand judicial scrutiny. Here’s why it’s important.


Also read: Tour of Duty at nascent stage, Army looking to make SSC more ‘lucrative’, says CDS Rawat


Essentials of the leaked excerpts

The leaked four-page excerpt from the report is silent on the actual scheme but highlights the financial savings and other benefits likely to accrue. Further details of the report acknowledged to be at a “nascent stage” were willingly amplified by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), Chief of Army Staff (COAS) and Army’s spokesperson.

Basically, the proposed model of ‘Tour of Duty’ will induct officers and soldiers for a three-year tenure. The pay scale will be at par with the regular Army without any pension or mandated “severance package”. However, battle casualties and disabled soldiers will be treated at par with regular soldiers.

The very nature of the scheme will ensure that a trained, disciplined, confident, diligent and committed workforce is available for government jobs and to the corporate world. The leaked document hopes for it to happen but accepts that the Modi government may not make the three-year Tour of Duty a mandatory criterion for central/state government jobs. Salaries may be tax free, and a token retirement grant of Rs 5-6 lakh may be given to officers and Rs 2-3 lakh to soldiers, with an advisory-for preferential consideration for jobs in academic institutions and public sector undertakings.

There is also a linked scheme — “inverse induction” — for officers/soldiers of Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), who will be inducted into the armed forces for a three-year Tour of Duty and then go back to the CAPF.

The main advantage of Tour of Duty is the exponential reduction in the salary and pension bill once the scheme takes off. The scheme will also improve the career prospect of regular soldiers and officers.


Also read: Army reviewing policy to assign aides-de-camp to governors, cites shortage of young officers


Past experience

A soldier is the most costly element of the military budget. Governments generally provide the best for them, from the time of joining until their death. A soldier’s spouse continues to get 50 per cent of their pension and other benefits.

Short service schemes, voluntary or mandated, have been in vogue for centuries. It is the most cost-effective measure to reduce military budgets. At times, when there is a shortage of people to join the force due to low population like in Israel or due to lack of volunteers during prolonged wars, governments resort to conscription — mandatory military service for a fixed tenure.

Indian armed forces have extensive experience of such schemes. In World War 2, the British Indian Army strength went up from 2 lakh to 25 lakh and was down to 3.5 lakh by 1948. The terms and conditions were kept simple — to serve as long as required by the government. Most went home with a token gratuity liable after five years of service with no pension.

After the Second World War, we had the colour service (7-10 years) and reserve service (8-15 years) scheme. During reserve service, the soldier received no pay but was paid a stipend when attending annual training for two months. At the end of 15 years, the soldier was granted a reservist pension, which was much lower than a regular soldier’s pension. This was a very effective scheme but our own policies citing “retention of trained manpower” and “welfare” ended it and introduced the mandatory minimum service of 15 years to earn pension.

Even for officers, we had the Emergency Commission introduced in 1962 and Short Service Regular Commission (SSRC) in 1966. In the case of the Emergency Commission, the terms of service were clear — for as long as the service was required. For the SSRC, the mandated service was five years. Both the schemes had no pension liability. Those who were not granted regular commission were released from service with gratuity paid after five years. Again citing “retention of trained manpower” and “welfare”, the government/Army tweaked the policy to first grant extension of five years and then making it a 10-year scheme extendable up to 14 years.


Also read: Army caught in old hiring conflict — 3-yr Tour of Duty or 5-yr Short Service Commission?


Old wine in a new bottle

Currently, we have a well established Territorial Army. Civilians are trained as soldiers/officers and embodied for service as and when required while their civilian jobs remain secure. Territorial Army units have performed creditably in war and counter-insurgency.

To give military experience even to the youth, we have the National Cadet Corps (NCC) with enrolment ranging between 13 and 15 lakh. Their annual day or Jamboree has been traditionally attended by the prime minister since 1948. We also had the practice of their attachment with units in operational areas.

India is a workforce-intensive country and there has never been any dearth of volunteers for enrolment as soldiers and officers. There should be no doubt that an attractive short term scheme, which strikes a balance between the standards of training and operational requirements of the armed forces and needs of the individual, is the most cost-effective method of managing military budgets. The real issue is the terms and conditions that have to be laid down by the Modi government.

Lt Gen H S Panag PVSM, AVSM (R) served in the Indian Army for 40 years. He was GOC in C Northern Command and Central Command. Post-retirement, he was Member of Armed Forces Tribunal. Views are personal.

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41 Comments Share Your Views

41 COMMENTS

  1. it was mistake of selection Board to induct the author in the army he deserves to be FILE warrior an dpushing pens/pencils.. To instill some sense of discipline it is necessary to spend some time in Army .. I would recommend every doctor or Engineer should spend at least one year in army before he become eligible to take up job;;; self employed exempted

  2. A few years back, a Defence Minister did not clear promotion list of offrs because no one from his caste was there in the list. The list had to be reworked to include some from his caste. Perhaps this will be the system at the time of recruitment itself. Those fellows will not be allowed to become cannon fodder because they will be trained to be a private militia of a political outfit.

  3. Some time ago Mohan Bhagwat uttered that he was capable of raising a big army within a couple of days. The ‘ Tour of Duty ‘ should not be aimed at training radicalized youth at the cost of public money and is available to vested interests to act as a trained Militia. Serving for 2-3 years serves no purpose. The service term should be a minimum of 8 years of service with 9 years of reserve liability which was in practice earlier.

  4. While I have great respect and affection for Harcharanjit, I must disagree.
    I think the” tour of duty” it is a faltering step in the right direction.
    The present Territorial Army is also just a half hearted attempt. We must set this in the back drop that India has been in a constant state of war of varying intensities since 1939. India faces a constant existential threat from within and without like Israel mitigated by the size of India vis a vis Islam (Pakistan) and Communism (China) but enhanced by facing two rather than one hostile force.
    But then, India’s style is Government sans Governance so I very much doubt that this is a well thought out move and designed in a manner to fit harmoniously into an overall game plan with specific Military objectives, goals, resources and methods of recruitment and demobilization rather than on a vague politically motivated idea.
    For example, Nehru disbanded the British made Officer Training Unity (OTU) and Reserves as he went about dismantling the regular Armed Forces in the notion that there would be no more wars and that he, Nehru, would prevent all future wars. The NCC, which was created after Nehru and Krishna Menon’s 1962 debacle was touted as the second line of defense but became a formation all on its own and hardly integrated with the main stream armed forces other than for training of an order of magnitude less than that of the regular forces with no plan on how these trained resources, such as they were, were to be harnessed post training. Similarly the Territorial Army became a force by itself without proper integration with the Main Stream Army in terms of Trade Craft, Regimental Induction, or rotation through regular regimental duties including front line duties.
    India needs to make far more drastic moves.
    It is my opinion since my days in the NCC (1967 – 1975) that India needs to create a Reserve Force that is woven into the Armed Forces.
    The benefit of this will be to create a far closer Military Civilian synergy and enable India to reduce the financial burden of maintaining such a large Standing Force while enriching civilian life with the benefits of military training. This will also dissolve the enormous barriers which exist now between civilian life and the Cantonments which, like Islam or Christianity, have become a Nation within a Nation! The Cantonment concept was born pre Independence when the Armed Forces were an occupying force, albeit largely recruited from among the natives, (like today’s judiciary, police or civil services) to be separated and kept separate from the natives whom they were designed to intimidate and subjugate.
    How I envisage this coming to pass is for the creation of Army, Navy and Air Force Reserves. The Territorial Army would dissolve into the Army Reserve.
    Recruitment would take place from among those who, after having availed of the various training facilities made available in the NCC and having reached the cut off standards, volunteer and are found fit for active duty.
    They would be relieved by their employers, both Government and Private, for Six Weeks of active duty ever year quite apart from their regular leave entitlements. (The Private sector must be compensated by Government for the loss in productivity). However, they would train on one day ever week end at locally available regular Military facilities under supervision of regular service trainers so as to be fit and ready at all times to be interoperable with regular forces.
    The Army Reserve would be deployed for active duty supplementing head count available in active zones such as borders, insurgency areas and so on allowing the strain on manpower to be relieved.
    The Naval Reserve would be deployed along India’s massive coast line for Coast Guard duties, allowing the Coast Guard to rotate through the Navy.
    The Air Reserve would be deployed on such activities as ferry, logistics and reconnaissance duties apart from technical activities to relieve the pressure on regular forces.
    The Police and Para Military too should be allowed to volunteer to serve on Reserves
    The Reserves, while on active duty, should be entitled to the same pay, facilities and allowances as regular servicemen of equivalent rank.
    This way the regular servicemen will have more time for rest and recuperation while vast holes in India’s present defense such as coastal air and sea reconnaissance and rescue, coastal batteries, and coastal defense with choppers, fighters, destroyers, and submarines would be augmented.
    The heavy and far too expensive standing head count in the regular forces could be reduced to a hard core capable of training and establishing standards as India will have vast reserves for mobilization in the case of emergencies and war to wrap around the core.
    The old and well established, tested and proven British legacy which used to work in India, until 1947, included the system of Reserves which I have laid out above as well as Emergency Service (including commissioned service) for Three Years and Short Service (including Commissioned Service) for Five Years with subsequent absorption into the Reserves for those who volunteer (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. Royal Auxiliary Air Force and Territorial Army)
    Indeed, the Indian Air Force grew entirely out of such a Reserve until a full time Air Force became necessary with the Japanese advance and the Number 1 Air Squadron of the Indian Air Force was raised at Rishalpur with elements from the Reserves and a few Indian officers from the Royal Air Force bred at Cranwell. My Father’s eldest Brothers who were taught to fly by my Grand father at the Madras Flying Club were part of the first batch of Officers to join the IAF at Rishalpur. Before that the Air Reserve in India comprised volunteers from the various flying clubs in India. My Grand father (Indian Service of Engineers) had been offered an Honorary Commission as a Major General in the Royal Flying Corps (Reserves) before World War Two (by virtue of his Madras Flying Club flying record and his stature in the ISE) but declined. He did remain on RFC Stand-By till he retired (pre Independence) I have preserved his RFC tie and wear it from time to time.

  5. भारत माता की जय🇮🇳 । जय जवान जय किसान🌾
    सर.
    मेरी उम्र 20 वर्ष है । मुझे बचपन से ही आर्मी में जाने का
    जूनून है में अभी 12th में हू ।
    सर में भारत मां के लिए बलिदान देने चाहता हूं।
    इस लिए आप से निवेदन है की मुझे मेरी मां के लिए
    लिए कुछ कर दिखाने का अवसर दीजिए ।
    में खुशी खुशी अपने प्राण न्यौछावर कर दूंगा
    🇮🇳 Jai Hind 🇮🇳 Jai Bharat 🇮🇳

  6. We can imagine the kind of people who will be inducted in it. I see this as a first step towards legitimizing Hindu militancy in the garb of Rashtra Seva. What the ISI of Pakistan army did for Muslim militancy, Indian army is about to do for Hindu militancy. Sorry, I am not trying to be flippant, I’m saying this very seriously and sincerely.

  7. Bahut bahut thanks jo apne hame tour of duty ka mohka mil raha he sir apka esan kabhi nahi bholege ham jay hind ⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️⚔️ i love this army

  8. Sir meri bhi dream hai Army me bhi jana chahata hu Army me bhi 2 Baar Army return me bhar hu kab tak aayegi ye Bharti Army ki

  9. It is not a bad idea – if treated as a prototype. If these lads are able to lead men after 1 year training or less, it will show that 4 year training (NDA stream) is a huge waste of time. More so, if those ex NDAs join ASC or AOC where they’ll actually be counting sacks most of their lives while these lads will be dying for India after 1 year training. Whether they do a good job or not is yet to be seen, so an experiment is in order. My detailed views on this are at https://thewire.in/security-security/india-army-terrorism-tour-of-duty
    Unfortunately, the idea has emerged out of necessity to please politicians, rather than out of some serious thinking.

    • ‘Unfortunately, the idea has emerged out of necessity to please politicians, rather than out of some serious thinking.’
      You are right. This is a political scheme. A regular soldier is apolitical. Here, right wing will hijack. return of SS Waffen.

  10. जय हिंद जय भारत.. …. सर में भी आर्मी में आना चाहता हूं कुछ मेरे देश की सेवा करना चाहता हूं सर मुझे भी सेवा करने का मोका मिलना चाहिए…… जय हिंद सर

  11. Instead of asking unemployed youth directly into army, why don’t we utilise civilian employee for military training. After selection, before joining the respective dept, the employee should undergo three yrs compulsory military training ,resulting in disciplined menpower available with us. This trained manpower will help us in changing of corrupt system, besides this maximum people of nation came to know the hardships faced a jawan. Incase of emergency ,this trained menpower an be utilised. And the defence has nothing to pay on the completion of three yrs. To keep them afresh refersor courses can be design as on required basis. There are good chances of civil military cooperation in the system ,heartburn will eliminate automatically which usually we hear in south block.
    .

  12. Good initiative but if a person die on duty. Should be entiled financial as per the regulars. Regulars r must. But short commissioned be kept in loops and given similar jobs where fitness levels maintained. Job opportunity . Nationalism. Discipline.👍

  13. Seeing the trend and spread of Chinese applications and influences on the youth , I rather suggest that military education should be made compulsory in the education systems. A liberal and open minded community often goes astray due to their fantasy and fabled thought process.
    A military educational influence imparts discipline and ownership in the youth.

  14. It’s so sad , that we are having to read your nasal biased news . Army is much more than what you think it is.

  15. One of the fittest, daring, prized strategist, practical, tough soldier General, with brilliant military traits. He does not apporove, fool hardy, ill conceived neo Nationalistic approachk

  16. जय हिंद जय भारत। 🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳
    सर मेरा उम्र 25 वर्ष हो गया है। क्या मैं इस आर्मी भर्ती में शामिल हो सकता हूँ। मै 12 वी पास हूँ। मुझमे बहुत जुनून है। आर्मी मे जाने का देश के लिए कुछ करने का, अगर मैं इस भर्ती मे शामिल हो सकता हूँ तो प्लीज़ मुझे बता देना।
    मैं भी जोश और जुनून के साथ आर्मी मे आना चाहता हूँ।

  17. One more point. You do not become a trained fighter after training. you require on-ground experience. that is nearly one to two years. Three years service period is too inadequate for a person to become a seasoned soldier, leave alone an officer. most of them are likely to become canon fodders when facing the militants. A bad scheme crafted by the yes men. The top politicians must realize that yesmen are dangerous.

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