File photo | New Army recruits being attested after successful completion of their training at the Mahar Regiment Centre | Facebook/Indianarmy.adgpi
File photo | New Army recruits being attested after successful completion of their training at the Mahar Regiment Centre | Facebook/Indianarmy.adgpi
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There are ideas, damned ideas and then there’s the Indian Army’s ‘Tour of Duty’ proposal. An ill-conceived scheme to allow young ‘Agniveers’ (military tourists, apparently) to follow the ‘Agnipath’ (serve in the combat forces) and experience the thrill of action where it’s at, in uniform for three years before moving on to other walks of life. Those taken in by the call to arms can presumably re-enlist and continue in Service as per the laid down terms of engagement for regular soldiers (who are only Veers).

The ostensible aim of such an exercise is manifold we are told; it will provide an opportunity to those youth fired by a desire to serve the nation but are unable to do so, because the current colour service norms for soldiers are too long; it will provide the Army (it may get extended to the Navy and Air Force as well, as per ThePrint report) with the young personnel it needs on the borders, though for a very short time only, without any long-term financial burden, especially pension; and there would be a cadre of such well-disciplined Indian patriots ready to go back into civilian life and raise the bar for work and well being of society. And yes, it would even be an employment generator for India in trying times and reap the demographic dividend we haven’t really encashed thus far.

With such noble ideas, what could go wrong? Well, there’s enough in the proposal that needs to be examined and dissected to point out to the enthusiastic votaries of the scheme as to why this is such a harebrained idea.

Also read: Army’s proposed ‘Tour of Duty’ recruitment model could be expanded to Navy and IAF too

Glaring problems 

To start with, under the regular terms of service and recruitment for officers and personnel, candidates undergo an entrance test, physical fitness and medical exam before trotting off to academies or training centres for nine-ten months to a year-and-a-half before being posted in the field Army. It is to be believed that there would be no entrance test for the agniveers. Now for a three-year tour of duty, even if such training is shortened — which is definitely not advisable if you are sending off the future agniveers to where bullets and shells may fly — effectively about 18-26 months would accrue in the kitty with field units, and some annual leave too would have to be given, or else the agniveer would be a very dull boy at the end of it all. Now imagine how such individuals, bubbling with national fervour, would be perceived in units where close cooperation and long-term bonding gets you safely through combat drills and dangerous situations. The reader may well imagine the muddle such induction of military tourists would induce in frontline fighting units.

A pertinent question we need to ask is, how are political leanings of such individuals going to be kept in check? They are only going to be in the armed forces for a short term and may be more inclined to show their like/dislike for a given political ideology, knowing full well that their Service conditions allow them greater leeway than a regular recruit for whom it is “naam-namak-nishan” and nothing else. This issue cannot just be brushed under the carpet because it has consequences for the much-needed apolitical character of the Army.

Also read: Not fair to cut defence pay, pensions and inject funds in airlines, banks

Finally, how well will these agniveers perform and how will their work be judged against those of the regular cadre? Please think these through before enthusiastically creating a government notification for it, because the Army is not an adventure camp. It deals with serious life and death business, in which so many important issues are at stake.

Our sagacious leaders at the top are all well versed with the limited but important points highlighted here, and must not succumb to political pressure and accept even a pilot project to try out this scheme, let alone allow it to spread its wings to cover other Services as well. There are other ways to reduce the burgeoning defence pension bill, but this scheme is definitely not it. If forced to push it through, the fighting efficiency and cohesion that our frontline units have displayed, even under the most trying circumstances, will be diluted immeasurably, and that would be a national travesty of our own doing.

Also read: Political ideology has a direct impact on Army’s leadership, and that’s a worry

The author is a retired Major General and was commissioned into the Armoured Corps in Dec 1983. Views are personal.

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  1. It is an excellent idea by political leaders definitely will end british raj among defence Forces officers by using soldiers as their slaves for personal reasons and also the officers fear as, all secrets will be released in the field of administration in running forces. Till date they are not allowing media. This major general is a britisher in favour of his friend officer.

  2. Why bring in someone from outside. NCC both in school and college, they struggle to get into armed forces due to several conditions. Why not give them chance instead of attempting to RSSing armed under the pretext of Agniveer

  3. Surely a harebrained idea. Have Political masters and their slaves run out of ideas, only to be meddling with an Organization which has never failed to deliver. Instead they would do well to keep away from healthy organisations and use their self styled genius in improving sick Entities. Haven’t we an abundance of them in this country?

  4. i am sorry to say..u look like dumb who lives in his imaginary world…Let first come the notification nd let the vouth decide what is best for them….Wearing the uniform is a matter of pride for some nd many of us dreams about it…
    PS- it is just an option which is given to use it or not use it will depend on indiviuals

    • He is the former IAF chief. You calling him dumb? You are the one living in imaginary world. He has first hand experience.

  5. This is a typical responses from a person who does not want people from non defense background enter their “domain”. Defense children get additional “points” just for being “children” and have a cake walk when compared to those “non-defense children”. This major general’s views are biased. Where was he when MS Dhobi did his military stint?

    • Hi brother.
      I’m here not to support Major General sahab but to clarify you that MS Dhoni isn’t on tour of duty however he’s an honorary lieutenant Colonel of TA(territorial army) which is open to all civilians with different terms and conditions. You can also join it if you can make up to the criterion. Already 40000 plus people from different walks of lives are serving in TA.

  6. Tour of Duty is not for border conflicts. It is for in time resolution of any civil war conditions if will arise in future.
    Due to dirty neighbours and local polit parties, earlier or later civil war can not be avoided.

  7. Agniveer is a good idea. A short stint makes people more patriotic apart from providing short term manpower in wars. Agniveer is old ECO of 1962( Emergency Commissioned Officers).

  8. A person’s ideological and political leanings is not army’s business. We are not talking about People’s Liberation Army of India. This is Indian Army. The only allegiance that matters is to the Constitution of India and The Supreme Commander of Indian Armed Forces, President of India.

    Author should have known better or he simply has no trust in Army’s ethos and capabilities.

    The tour of duty has been created to curb the mounting salary and pensions burden on the exchequer. Pensions alone are more than the capital expenditure. Only major army suffering from this peculiar problem.

    Unless it is specified there is no way of knowing what branches of army are included for this program. 6-9 months of training are barely enough for infantry, armour and artillery. Same however is more than enough for Corps of Signals, Service Corps and Medical Corps granted the recruits come from professional background with required education.

    Not all in the army are going to HALO jump out of C-130 or hunt terrorists in POK.

  9. Instead, like the UK and US, serving in the forces for 2-3 years should be made mandatory for youth before taking up positions of political leaders in our country.

  10. The author suffers from a stereotype mindset. Israel and China has proved that fast rotating young blood is better to maintain then a large army which is nothing more than a white elephant.

  11. Sadly the article is low on facts and high on bias. Although I agree about the part of recruits not going through proper training being a red flag, other issues raised don’t hold much water. It seems some of the arguments were put in just to just to make the article longer. Nevertheless there are nations with mandatory services for populace and most of them haven’t seen any degradation is fighting prowess. It seems veterans are regimented in an archaic way of working, which needs a change

  12. This article is an eye opener on hare brained people writing to please their green bosses, on opposing anything and everything that the government does.

    Has the author been ever into NCC?


    The 3 year stint must be made mandatory for everyone graduating out of colleges and their service number must be made mandatory for employment. It must not be a adventure tourism for students looking for a high.

    The compulsory 3 year stint would make the fresh graduates disciplined, knowledgeable, develop leadership skills, work under extreme stress, team building, take life dependent decisions and inculcate a sense of patriotism. Most importantly, they would be ready for the call of duty in future.

    Several countries in the world do it. It is high time we do it too.

  13. An excellent concept being shot in the foot by these so called columnists. These fly-by-night writers keep finding imaginary problems for every solution the govt thinks of. There are millions of eagerly waiting young men and women out there looking for a chance to serve this great country while earning a decent pay and some perks of service. Why should such an opportunity not be grabbed with both hands? The writers lopsided logic of ‘diluted fighting efficiency and cohesion’ can be put to rest by the fact that most ground operations are successfully led by young men just out of their teens who are still fighting to establish a reputation for themselves in their units. The writer would do well to stay away from writing.

  14. Govt shd facilitate ease of doing business promoting entrepreneurship in order to get more youth employed, which wd also increase industrial opportunities of employment from big businesses.
    It is a shame they want to tamper with defence pensions, considering crores being spent on bad ideas, looted in corruption n flamboyance be it BJP or Congress.

    Wonder how they manage to come up with “harebrained” (rightly said) ideas like these.

  15. Tour of duty is a good idea only if you promise for reemployment of those youth in other sectors,such as bank ,railways.otherwise it is painful because we have trained people on various weapon as unemployed.

  16. If these idea are really brain child of cds then its very disappointing to see that he is now considering military matters from gov perspectives.i would like to remind him that character our military set up is entirely built by its personnel.and you want to impose something that they are aren’t used to.before imposing any change in structure of military set up you need to Change a whole lot of things .you know that

  17. Three year is far too less for gaining anything. Most of these agniveers will be doing petty jobs and no one will reap the proposed benefits. Instead of this it will be better to enhance the intake in NCCs. Also the government should recruit more short service men & officers with option of absorption in regular service and in government (Civil) jobs. It will give better soldiers to the armed forces and disciplined, patriot, honest & hardworking civilians to government departments.

  18. One thinks that the most ‘hairbrained’ part would be the one where large numbers of youth, fully trained in using lethal weapons, will be mostly unemployed and out inthe streets after the ‘tour’….

  19. From where is the author getting the idea that there won’t be any selection process for recruiting under this scheme? And where is the question of checking an individual’s political leanings? Don’t soldiers vote? Are soldiers conscripted by armies in Israel, South Korea, Singapore etc. expected to be politically sterile? And why can’t their work be evaluated? Don’t young soldiers and recruits in the regular army have an ACR? I think the authors views are not well-founded, and are more a product of bias than of objectivity or open-mindedness.

    • Is not an opportunity to serve the country in uniform a good idea? And the seer number of trained soldiers in reserve to be used in time of crisis if the country fights two opponents at a time. Disciplined civilians who have been trained as soldiers. Now the situation in India is such, even if you want to compete/are qualified but employed, one hardly gets NOC from the employer to get into Arm force. This definition is a good idea. Should be open to physically and mentally fit persons irrespective of age.

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