Tour of Duty: A Novel Proposal or Sugar-Coated Poison?

Following the Indian Army's novel proposal to allow able bodied youth to serve in the army for 3 years, 'Mission Victory India' interviewed eminent veterans, who shared their insights on the proposed policy. Excerpts below.

Tour of Duty: A Novel Proposal or Sugar-Coated Poison?

The Proposal

The Indian army’s long standing shortage of 7,680 officers could be partly reduced with the proposed novel "Three-year, Tour of Duty model" for Officers and Jawans announced by the Army.

Tour of Duty (ToD) is modelled on similar lines with the existing Short Service Commission (SSC) entry scheme, which allows selected candidates to serve as Commissioned Officers for 10-14 years, following which they can opt for Permanent Commission (PC).

If accepted the ToD model will serve as something along the lines of an "internship" offering able bodied youth volunteers a chance to experience "army life, including serving in combat arms for three years."

Speaking to 'Mission Victory India' a senior army official knowledgeable about the developments has said, "The proposal is a shift from the concept of permanent service towards an internship or temporary experience of military service."

A defence spokesperson, said "There will be absolutely no relaxation in the selection and training criteria, and it is only those candidates who are meeting the Indian army’s current selection standards shall be eligible to serve under this proposed model."

The official also said, "This mode of engagement is likely to benefit both the army and the candidates, the details of which are presently under scrutiny and will form a part of the main proposal which should be forwarded to the government for approval soon."

The proposal reviewed by 'Mission Victory India' highlights the significant financial savings the Indian Army is likely to make if the proposal passes and would also “enhance career prospects of  ToD volunteers in the corporate world, post service."

Both aspects are worth introspection as defence experts have claimed that the Indian Army’s mounting salary and pension costs, have been seeping away major chunks from the defence budget. Furthermore, the perceived lack of adequate career prospects in the corporate sector post retirement has been another reason for a career in the Defence Services, let alone the army being considered as an unattractive career option by the talented youth.

Elaborating how the ToD model will financially unburden the army and make a career in the military a more lucrative choice the proposal cites:

"The cumulative cost of pre-commission training, pay/allowances, proposed severance packages, leave encashment and other costs is nearly Rs 5.12 crore and Rs 6.83 crore for short-service commissioned (SSC) officers released after 10 and 14 years of service. However, similar costs for those released after three years will be just Rs 80 to Rs 85 lakh".

The proposal also says that the ToD model would eventually result in significant reduction in salary and pension budgets, too. The proposal also cites a survey that has indicated that corporate houses would prefer employing individuals who have been trained by the military and join them at the age of 26-27 after a three-year ToD rather than college graduates.

"Many corporates have indicated that ToD officers would also be preferable to the current SSC work force joining them at the age of 33-34 years after 10 years of service. The ToD concept will become attractive if seen by the youth as a vehicle which boosts their subsequent career in the government or the corporate world," the proposal said.

Clarifying doubts as to whether or not the proposal amounts to conscription in any way Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said, "It will be totally voluntary and there will be no dilution in the selection criteria."

The proposal added, "This is an ideal opportunity for those individuals who do not want to make defence services their permanent vocation, but still want to experience the thrill and adventure of the military profession and the glamour of donning the uniform."

The proposal also addressed questions about the level of preparedness and experience of ToD cadre in a potential wartime situation, reading, "This argument can be negated with the demonstrated performance of our officers and jawans with less than three years service in the Kargil war. If the ToD officers/jawans undergo the same training (for nine months) as the regular officers/other ranks, then their commitment, dedication and performance should not be in any doubt,"

Responses Invited

In view of the above highlighted salient features of the Army’s proposed three years Tour of Duty model for Officers and Jawans Respondents were requested to weigh the pros and cons of this novel proposal and send their views, comments and recommendations keeping in mind their service background and experience in uniform in peace, war, Counter Insurgency environment and also post retirement life.

What Veterans Have to Say About the Proposal

Lt Gen VK Chaturvedi, ex Artillery & Director General Manpower Planning and Personal Services

The Tour of Duty ( ToD) proposal of inducting the youth of the country for three years in the Army came as a surprise to me as I wasn't aware of the actual reason behind it. Taking the print media version of this news to be correct, i.e to give the youth a feeling of the Army and also inculcate in them the national spirit, left me aghast at the proposal.

Armed Forces are the last bastion of the state instrument of power. They have an onerous responsibility to ensure that come what may, the Nation never loses. Be it in aid to civil authorities or during National Disasters/calamities, or when everything fails or for repairing bridges for Common Wealth Games or in Mumbai, and most importantly the primary task being, defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country.

Armed Forces have to be equipped, trained, motivated and effective so that they always win. With such a charter to be fulfilled, we have to have the best soldiers, totally committed, dedicated and young. We need efficient, effective and highly synchronised formations, units and subunits.

For achieving this, our greatest strength is the 'Regimentation', which is built over time, when you rub shoulders with your men and colleagues, live together, eat together, share your happiness and sorrows, develop confidence amongst each other and above all the trust, faith and belief in each other. This takes time, you have to prove yourself in thick and thin and only then such trust and faith is cemented.

I therefore can not fathom how we have accepted a proposal that to give a feel of the Army and inculcate nationalism, we will have an entry called Tour of Duty (ToD) for three years for the youth of the country. In these three years about 8 months will go on leave (A/L,C/L), another about 5 months for the mandatory Young Officers (YOs) Course.

That will leave just about two years, i.e. first one year for settling down and  second year for planning to leave i. e. employment post ToD. What will be his dedication, commitment to the Paltan is anyone's guess. Our greatest strength i.e. 'Regimentation' will be the biggest sufferer and thereby result in operational effectiveness of the units and subunits being compromised. This is something which is just not acceptable.

The Short Service Commission (SSC) was started for 5 yrs service initially, thereafter, it was felt it is less hence increased to 5+5 yrs, and later to 5+5+4 yrs and ultimately now to 10 +4 yrs (total 14 yrs). This is for two reasons, firstly to give adequate time to be part of the system and contribute and secondly this is the service group where we have the requirement due to a shortage of officers.

Both are operational effectiveness reasons. SSC, has already proved itself. We are adequately prepared in terms of training facilities, various SOPs, their optimum utilisation etc, and therefore this entry needs to be strengthened by making it more attractive. Lateral induction for them into CAPF, will be a great step forward in making the SSC more attractive.

Financial Savings

Armed Forces do not ever get involved in financial Savings aspects, however, this is a parameter kept at the back of mind. It has never become the overriding parameter. If we don't have the funds, we may spread the induction of a particular equipment or reduce the numbers i.e .if we need three divisions, we go for only two divisions immediately and leave the third for operationalization later, but we never compromise on the quality and effectiveness.

In this case there will not be any savings also as the training cost will go up substantially, as against training one officer we will now be training five, there will be requirement of more training facilities, more instructors, more Academies, also paying more number of the GCs for the period of training. The number of SSB centres will also need to be increased as more candidates will need to be screened.

Why do we say our Pension bill is going up, we want to reduce it. It's bizarre, it is the cost of defending national integrity and sovereignty. Please don't call it expenditure, it's investment. Look after your veterans and give them dignity and honour, do not let them feel that they are liabilities, it's very hurting.

If there is a need to give the feel of Army life,then there are other means available like increasing  the strength of NCC and let these cadets spend six months with Army units in field areas including HAA, take part in operations, patrolling, area domination etc, and cover them for the risk involved.

There is another option of TA (Territorial Army), raise additional battalions for 'Namami Gange' project, at least 30 Bns are required to be deployed all along the Ganges. Now herbal plantation is also required to be done, they will do the best job with total dedication and commitment. No money will be pilfered. Similarly you can raise additional TA battalions for Heritage Protection, to protect all 30,000 odd Heritage sites of the country.

A requirement of 15 odd battalions is there for the same. Presently you have ad hoc arrangements, like private guards etc,wherein you have lost precious artifacts while the site is also not protected. The efficiency will improve manifold, and the areas will be well maintained with proper accounting of all the assets and also the visitors control will be proper. This will also result in creation of employment both for the local youth as well the veterans.

In the end I would strongly recommend that please don't tamper with a great professional institution like the Armed Forces, they have an onerous task of defending the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country where we can't be experimenting to give a feel of the Army life to the youth of the nation. It's too serious a matter to be dealt with in this manner.

Armed Forces have to always guarantee a victory for the Nation, they can't afford to be defeated. If the Armed Forces lose the Nation loses, stakes are too high. Therefore, no experimentation please. It is not to give a 'tour' to anyone but to do a very sacred job.

If Armed Forces duties are taken as 'tours' that will be the end of a very professional Armed Forces of the world. Let's not be penny wise pound foolish. We will be creating a population who after having a 'tour' of Armed Forces demanding every privilege of the Armed Forces and be looked after like the veterans, many of them may also become medical categories and thus will demand looking after (of course you will have to pay them disability pension for life in these cases)

Let's bring changes in the Armed Forces only to make them more professional and operationally effective and for no other reason. Nation must know that this is the only organization which signs its death warrant willingly at the time of commissioning, let's respect it's professionalism. Jai Hind!

Maj Gen CD Sawant, ex Infantry, ex  GOC Inf Div & Comdt MLIRC

Tour of Duty concept is seemingly a novel idea for India. Of course it is a copy paste idea from Developed countries especially USA and Israel. However, while considering its benefits for the country or Army as such, there must be a detailed thought given for future prospects of the individuals. Some have indicated that Corporates may welcome these individuals; I do hope that Corporates both Indian as well as MNCs operating in India have been taken into confidence. merely conjecturing that Corporates will prefer such persons is definitely not adequate.

The government before implementing the scheme, must also make sure that these individuals after their tour of duty are absorbed not only in Corporates but also in other government services including IAS, IFS, IPS etc and other PMF. If the resistance to accept them in above services continues then the issue will be a non starter. I earnestly feel that consideration of future prospects of such persons are more important than the benefit the government may accrue.

Col Pradeep Dalvi, ex Mech Inf, ex Head of Security & Vigilance GM, Tata Power

If the aim of the ToD model is to reduce the burden on defense expenditure then whoever has recommended this model is trying to please the bureaucrats and politicians without knowing realities on ground. Firstly what is the difference between ToD and SSC? You train a civilian for 11 months to become an officer and saying goodbye to him after three years is nothing but wasting of resources and killing the aspirations of the young.

Today's Generation Z has a different mindset than their previous generation, namely X and Y generation. Their attitude, behavior  and lifestyle are focused along with technology and have to be taken into consideration. Some ARM CHAIR senior officers and bureaucrats cannot  make such a decision sitting in Delhi without considering the aspiration of Generation Z. They are not likely to be drawn towards the Armed Forces only on adventure, army way of life or uniform, but something substantive in terms of pay and allowance and stability.

Idea of the corporate world lapping them (ToD officers) for jobs and assignments is far-fetched. Individuals with 26/27 years of age will have to start from the scratch and at the bottom of the corporate ladder. Recently, I spoke to students of class XI and XII of Sainik school Bijapur (My school) to motivate them to join the forces (NDA) as the performance  of students over the last few years have been very poor.

They live in a disillusioned world where they think that corporate world offer big fat salaries and they  can reach the higher echelons of the corporate ladder in quick time, balloon which we deflated  with statistics and opportunities in corporate world. If this is the response of Sainik school and military school students who are considered to be feeder pipe line for Armed forces I dread to think what will be the intake of civilians to ToD model where you are left on your own to manage your career?

Coming back to the Brass tacks, though it might look very attractive at first glance to civilians and also to men in uniform, the availability of officers on ToD is not more than 2 years being on Leave, courses, TD, etc, away from their duty station. The ratio of  training at OTA (1 year) and actual military service (2 years) will be 1:2 respectively which is highly undesirable and sheer wastage of trained resources. Armed forces is the last resort of the nation, be it internal/external threat, or from natural or man-made disasters.

If that be so, one should not put stop gap measures to ride over a shortage of officers in Armed forces where quality and intake is compromised. There seems to be some impression amongst Lutyens Delhi that ToD  officers will provide the nation with strong, disciplined, military oriented citizens which will be of great value addition to the country.

Some have even started even comparing with military conscription like in Israel. For such day to dawn for dreamers, we need to first put in place our economy on road and have suitable opportunities for young men after ToD tenure, otherwise it will be  akin to contract labor and their fate  post Covid 19 pandemic.

Let me look at other options available to tie over shortage of manpower, especially of officer cadre, in the forces and also reduce our defence budget with addition of values and the ethos of the forces to provide stability to the officers cadre:

a) All IAS, IPS, IFS officers carry out ToD of two years with Armed forces after their probationary training. All BSF and CPMF officers  to carry out ToD of 3 years after completing their mandatory training in their respective  training establishments.

b) Direct  recruitment as part of ToD (5 years) to officers in TA (territorial Army/ SRPF/CISF/CRPF etc) with options available of permanent commission or extension or severance or side stepping to other defense organizations/PSU.

c) Direct recruitment as JCO (Junior commissioned officers) as graduate entry in forces thereby reducing load on officers and having manpower for induction through ranks to officer cadre.

d) Lastly, the ToD model needs to be looked at holistically especially from the point of view of jobs, employability and opportunities available and aspiration of the Z Generation. Being a short service commissioned officer I have had closer look at my course mates who did not get their permanent commission after 5 years of duty or volunteered to opt out and the difficulties they faced in finding suitable jobs in this corporate world. It is the job and duty of the Govt to provide them these opportunities and not leave them to fend for themselves.  

Brig IS Gakhal, ex Infantry & Sector Cdr RR & Comdt SRC

It is old Wine in a new bottle. There was a proposal to induct through our Territorial Army a short service cadre. Do a year in TA and if found suitable side step to Army for a specified tenure. However, this transitory method of making up officer shortage has the following repercussions:

a) Adversely impact Regimental ethos and life. By the time a YO imbibes the ethos and ready for responsibility he is set to go.

b) Frankly there will be few takers for this uncertain future after a 3 year slog.

c) The answer may lie in a five year stint with guaranteed CAPF service thereafter.

d) Without assured further progression why would I slog the hard road.

e) In JCOs we have potential leaders. It would be better if we give them greater authority and use them more gainfully than presently to make good officer shortage.

f) As for Jawans there are no shortages. However to cut costs the answer lies in extending retirement age to 50.

Col CM Chavan, ex AAD

The Indian Army's requirement is not just able-bodied individuals but highly trained and experienced individuals. The tour of duty model for three years does not specify the following:

a) Would they be given the same annual and casual leave (if so, his effective tenure would be two years and four months)?

b) Would they be subjected to various courses (at least two in three years) i.e. YOs and another skill-related, which would further reduce their actual tenure?

c) Would their dependents be given medical assistance more so when such an officer becomes a casualty, what would be his fate?

d) Would there be any legal battles to be endured at a later date, as the women officers fought for permanent commission?

An officer/jawan almost takes more than three years to mature as a soldier by way of grooming, training, and experience. Apart from that, we strive to train soldiers by transferring them to various terrains by moving the units to different sectors. Here in this scenario, an individual would have to be kept restricted to one type of terrain. This would mean that an individual would have to be posted to a unit which has just been moved to a particular sector.

We are thinking of reducing the cost of one short service commissioned officer who would be having a tenure of let us say, twenty years. It would thus necessitate in providing seven such officers in lieu who in any case would be of no comparison to a short service officer.

A short service officer is a highly trained soldier in twenty years of time, who is motivated and imbibed with the ethos of his unit and does not hesitate to give the supreme sacrifice. On the other hand, an officer who is on a 'tour of duty' would probably try to remain safe barring aside a few. Most of the officers from such cadre would be whiling away time as; they would know it in the heart of the heart that they are just guests of honour!

I dare say that most of the youth of India have been brought up in an environment, wherein they are not filled with national pride and fervour, who do not even know their responsibilities towards the state and lack initiative (the reason for rejections at SSB). It's the regimentation and grooming that an officer/jawan undergoes in his unit, that he becomes a true soldier.

It is the first three to four years which are crucial and as such, I personally feel that such cadre officers would not meet the requirement, especially when we are being subjected to unconventional warfare on daily basis from the Western Front and the Eastern Front is a volcano as to when it will burst, one can not say. In such a scenario we can not have three cadres of officers namely permanent, short service and now 'tour of duty' which is bound to create chaos and divide in a unit. It is the COs who are going to face the major brunt. It is NOT just the question of filling in the numbers. This idea should practically and not theoretically be thought over by including the views of CO upwards before putting it up as a proposal.

It is really painful that we can go to any length to reduce the expenditure for the Govt. It is pertinent to bring out here that France's Armed Forces Chief  Pierre de Villiers resigned when the defense budget cuts were in the pipeline under Emmanuel Macron in the year 2017. In times to come if India is to become a major power, it would need strong defence forces to project its foreign policy.

Cdr Ravindra Pathak, ex IN

I wonder why we are keen on doing a cut-paste job, When we look to implement schemes from other countries we need to look at the general situation in those countries with respect to the  Employability of such short tours, armed forces officers post-release when the unemployment rates are high. These officers unless first recruited in a job and then seconded to Armed forces will face a fate worse than that of Short Service Commission officers and Emergency Commission officers.

We had such a scheme in the Indian Navy or Indian Navy Volunteer Reserve scheme. Frankly most of them were on holidays during attachments but some who volunteered to join as permanent commission officers did well.

It takes the services 11 months to train an SSC Officer in the academies and then on the job in the field. Now, will these officers spend 1/3 the period or a shorter time is not clear. One wonders if one-third of the total time is spent in training alone how much these officers will contribute to the fighting power of the service or will they be a burden on the unit. If it is lower the situation in units will be worse than the shortage.

In conclusion, in my opinion, this is a penny wise pound foolish step for which the armed forces and nation will pay a heavy price in the future

RAdm Stanley O' Leary

When I saw this report in the papers, what struck me was the knee jerk reaction to a very serious issue, where someone thinks, Eureka, I have found the problem to ease the tensions of the Finance Ministry. But is this only for the Armed Forces? Is the contribution of those who served faithfully bound by what they can be paid in pay and pensions.

Why on earth does this not be considered by the Civil services whose service itself is questionable. Needless to say they have puppets in the Service who will applaud loudly to be seen to be pro Government and even fair on the Govt. But many of these worthies have taken disability pension. These are the hypocrites that we need to contend with.

Gp Capt TP Srivastava, ex IAF

One of the most insane, impractical ideas, which will have a direct impact on operational readiness as well as morale of the 'longer term' serving personnel. National Security is not counted in terms of pennies. In this proposal we have gone wrong there as well.

Quoted figures of 3 year term is about INR 85 lakh, whereas for a SSC person, who would serve for 14 years is around INR 5 Crore. Now the maths;

Five terms of 3 year tenure (15 years) will cost around INR 4.25 Crore (INR 85 Lakhs X 5). The 3 year tenure individual will remain a trainee for at least one year, hence five trainees will consume five years under trainee implying operational utilisation for 10 years only. whereas the 14 year tenure SSC person will be available for 13 years in operational role. Which insane person/s have come up with such an idea?

Col Rajinder Kushwaha, Author, Def & Nat Sec Analyst, ex CO 3 Bihar

Many awkward questions arise. Are you going to use the youth of this country as canon fodder? It is a known fact that shortage of officer cadre, of some 7,700 officers, is mostly felt in the Infantry and RR Battalions due to deployment in Insurgency? Are we going to train them for a mercenary job to kill or be killed in insurgency environments?

What assurance do you have for lucky survivors for lateral absorption? If they are not absorbed laterally, would they not become killers roaming the streets of India? There are very many chances of unemployed amongst them being exploited by the mafia and underworld elements. Nation would face a serious problem. This remedy is worse than the problem.

Why are we making a 'khichdi' (mixture) of the Officer Corps? It is a most ridiculous proposition. In case the officer shortage is felt so badly, then increase the number of direct entry graduate JCO vacancies in Infantry and RR battalions. They could rise to the rank of Lt Col/Col and retire.

Police and PMF have such cadres —- why not Indian armed forces? Why go on with the Colonial culture? We need to give more responsibilities to JCO cadre and enhance their chances of upward mobility.

Reduce the intake of regular and direct officers. A Junior Leaders Academy needs to be established. May IMA be temporarily converted into 'Junior leaders Academy' for direct commission of graduate JCOs. (Do not be Shocked!)

Direct entry officers Cadre can be reduced. They can rise to the ranks of Brigadiers and Generals. The NDA cadets of the reduced Army stream can go to OTA for final training. Naval and Airforce cadets entry to be appropriately increased for NDA, because of the emphasis of modern wars shifting to SAS (Space and Seas) rather than land. Land warfare will be confined to insurgency and border skirmishes where junior leaders would play an important role.

JLA (IMA) is only for initial Combat arms cadets training such as Infantry, Artillery and Armoured Corps for one year and later one year for combined training with Logistics and technical cadets.

Initial one year training of Logistics and technical cadets will be done at respective specialised institutes at Mhow, Secunderabad, Pune, Jabalpur and Barailey etc.

This will be a better way of making up the deficiency at the junior leaders level. As brought out earlier we need to strengthen the Execution level of leadership in the army for shrinking the Zone of 'Land Warfare'. We need to think of junior leadership, keeping in mind the emerging forms of warfare and also in tune with modern India.

The Army has to move away from Colonial thinking of JCOs being used only as a communication link between officer cadre and the men. Revitalise it and make it more responsible.

Col Alok Asthana, ex Infantry

There is only one definite lesson here; rest is speculative which would be validated only in the future. It is now proven that the army itself believes that one year training is adequate to convert a univ lad into an officer, who will deliver as would an ex NDA boy with 4 years massive expenditure on him by Indian state. It believes that 1 year training meets the requirement of what the industry calls MVP (Minimum Viable Product). The other 3 years are just embellishments e.g. how to ride a horse, how to box, how to speak better English, how to display better etiquettes, how to bullshit etc.

So, why are we wasting so much money on giving anyone more than 1 year training?

How an officer turns out after the first 3 years depends not only on how he is handled in these first three years, but ENTIRELY on it. I am 100 % sure of that. Pre commission training has NOTHING to do with success after 3 years. Had it been so, the army would have had some system to benefit ex NDAs over DEs and others in their careers. That’s not the case and rightly so. With that, the army can now simply not be training anyone for more than a year.

Another benefit maybe - just maybe - that these boys may tell COs and Bde Cdrs exactly what is wrong with them. This will be so because they won’t care for ACRs and will thus improve the system. To get this benefit, we must make sure that COs and Bde Cdrs unhappy with their forthrightness do not have any means of stopping award of the ToD certificate to them.

These two are my genuine thoughts and not just a way of mocking the system. I am sad, though, that the army has decided to go in for the cheapest labour available rather than improve the product i.e. career prospects such that these so called patriotic boys serve for life.

With this system the brightest lads will enter the army this ToD way and use the ToD cert to move into the civil sector, which will gladly pay for what the army refused to pay for. Only those who know that the civil sector may not hire them even after the ToD cert, will opt for permanent commission. With that our army of more than 3 years service will be of those who know they were not good enough in the competitive world of the civil sector. This is already happening, but the problem will be further accentuated.

Col Yeshwant Umralkar, ex Infantry & AOC

I am reminded of a debate on a private TV channel where the topic was Pay Commission recommendations. One of the bones of contention was the withdrawal of free rations to officers in peace locations (the perk has since been restored). The general argument was that the bureaucrats got hefty allowances in difficult areas whereas the soldier comparatively was given a pittance although the bureaucrat did not face the same degree of difficulty while living in these so called difficult areas whereas the soldier in addition to climatic hazards also faced a risk to his life due to enemy action or due to vagaries of climate.

In the end one of the retired bureaucrats argued that when we fix the inter service parity in pay and allowances we look at the CTC (cost to company). So the babu's convert all allowances given to the armed forces personnel into cost in Rupees and see that the bureaucrat always maintained the bureaucracy’s upper hand in the ultimate gross income terms. So, you get killed due to pulmonary edema or by a bullet, you are not a class apart and do not deserve anything out of the ordinary.

So, what are we talking about here? Are we trying to save expenditure of the exchequer of a state machinery where neither the politician nor the bureaucrat is willing to give to the services its justified dues, which has been amply demonstrated in the delay in granting OROP in full, further making the ruling dispensation’s unfair intentions clear when it refuses to making public the findings and recommendations of Justice Reddy’s OMC which it had itself convened.

Coming to the latest proposal of hiring civilians on a 'on tour duty' for three years and at the end of three years sending them away.

No doubt a considerable amount of pen pushing must have been involved and inputs from Defence attaches posted in embassies must have been considered before giving a final shape to this idea, the first reaction is that it is a hare-brained idea. One of being  more loyal than the king. Napoleon had famously said "an army marches on its stomach."

Here the army wants to cut that stomach by saving money by short-changing itself in terms of having a battle worthy professional cadre at all times. Spend a few lacs to save a couple of crores. It is suspiciously an attempt at self-aggrandizement by a select few. It is also contradicting the claims of the present government of making India a USD Five-Trillion economy within the next four-five years. With an economy likely to double its present size, where is  the need to economise on vital requirements of the armed forces, is the question.

One solution to correct the shortage of officers that comes to mind is several fold increase the intake in all entries notwithstanding the added expenditure involved.

The reasons why the "Tour on Duty" concept will be a non-starter are:

a) the idea is not likely to find many takers among the job seeking youth if there is no incentive like being absorbed on a permanent basis.

b) the army will spend a colossal amount of man hours (at the cost of more urgent matters)  on giving 'on the job training' to these tourists and will leave very little time in which the organisation may receive something from them as pay-back considering that they will be in service for just three years.

c) the professional competence that is required of the tourists to make meaningful contributions in suitable positions in the organization will just not be there, because they would not be attending training courses that they would make them professionally competent.

d) Lack of professional competence for reasons enumerated above will restrict their scope of employment in the organization to basic duties (in an infantry battalion this might mean just a platoon officer, a post also tenable by a JCO).

e) three years is a rather short time span to give the tourists a sense of belonging. Just one and a half year into their tour, they would be looking forward to their exit "Ab dedhsaal hi bacha hai" Reiterating, increase the intake in all entries, notwithstanding the costs involved.

A Serving Col, Infantry

Without being cynical, overall I feel the effect would be good. However there will still be that 1% of the lot who will start fighting for their rights, try to form a view about the forces based on mere 3 yrs of insight, expose few ills existing in the army like buddy systems, etc. This lot is a problem. What do they do of their ranks when they move out? We should start with seeing who the aspirants would be.

The academically well to do lot won't want to waste 3 yrs of their prime career years. In today's fast moving professional paradigm, getting 3 yrs behind your peers is a big issue. So the  ones applying might still be a mediocre lot who will try to use this opportunity as a job prospect for a job.

Yes, there would be a considerable number of applicants who will want to join for patriotic reasons; they should not become trigger happy to slurp maximum adventure out of these 3 yrs. Now once they are in, how seriously can units invest in their grooming? Right from mess traditions, officer men relationships, our basic values, etc. And what jobs they can be entrusted with? In infantry battalions, first 2-3 yrs are spent by a Young Officer  getting to know about his job through various courses.

Only after 3-4 yrs does he get employed in appointments like coy cdr/adjt etc. Without YOs, for 3 yrs, these ToD offers will just be duty officers. With limited roles, they invariably will be tasked for JCO jobs which will again get us to the problem of underemployed JCOs, especially now with increased  numbers courtesy 3rd cadre review.

On the pros, the army will get closer to the civil  world by virtue of continued affiliations after exit from ToD, especially in the connected world we are living in. Stories of army attachment  will travel far and overall the military-civil familiarity will increase. On the political front, this should not be allowed to get exploited as a BJP move.

The Indian Army cannot become a Military Wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). There should be no influences entertained for taking in undeserving candidates.

On the jawan front, it's a very good move as a work force increment in the form of additional manpower. Some system of evaluation should be considered for both officers and men when they exit ToD to keep the nuisance makers under check. With ToD, lads with one year training will be found leading platoons in action in the same army in which bright ex NDAs with 4 years expensive training(and pension benefits) , now in ASC/AOC, spend a lifetime counting sacks!

Jayanta Banerjee, Senior Corporate Professional

I don’t think it will serve either purpose. Neither will the army get select quality candidates nor will the corporate sector benefit from such human resources. Corporates would like to train young exits from college or university and mould them at an early age. They look for fresh young minds with no fixed mindset.

Corporates of today are very unlike the army. Armed Forces by design need to be blue organisations i.e follow orders and maintain discipline. Corporates on the other hand need fresh thinking, challenge the status quo, break the hierarchy and agility with a growth mindset. Armed forces need a fixed mindset especially at junior levels.  

The other point to note is an experience of a mere 3 years hardly counts, it does not give an experience of the forces and mould a person’s character. It only takes away 3 years from corporate life, makes it a delayed entry if at all available and creates a disadvantage for entire career. This is too short too quick a tenure for the forces and too long too slow for the corporate entry.  

Conclusion & the Way Ahead

The Tour of Duty (ToD) Proposal of three years service for young Army Officers & Jawans after training for one year with post service lateral induction into the corporate world seems similar to the old concept of Short Service Commission of five years service. The details of this novel idea and its justification for implementation were examined thread bare and deeply analyzed by several  senior veterans who have served for decades  in the Armed Forces and also held coveted positions.

Some veterans also have rich corporate experiences and are competent to comment on the pros and cons of the proposal, its viability in the Armed forces and in the corporate sector. All these eminent Veterans unanimously feel that this proposal is a non-starter from the beginning. They conclude that the very idea of this proposal is flawed and whose time has not yet come!

Further Reading: Tour of Duty: Laudable or Laughable?

Guts, Grit and Glory | Army Deserves the Best

(Views expressed are the respondents own, and do not reflect the editorial policy of 'Mission Victory India')

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