India's 'Tour Of Duty' Proposal Revisited

"To implement a change just for the sake of claiming 'humne kar ke dikhaya' is a slogan best avoided when dealing with a sensitive issue as national security."

India's 'Tour Of Duty' Proposal Revisited

First Announced some three years ago,  the earlier proposal was for all ranks including officers, it evoked much criticism from various quarters. Apparently the idea was sold as a win win with a reduction in the increased costs and achieving the twin objectives of providing jobs as well as filling the void in the rank and file. It would provide the corporate houses a young disciplined potential for employing and some corporate houses were reportedly willing to pump in funds to facilitate training. All of this was at that point of time only talk.

Of late 'agnipath' or some such scheme has found its way to the print media including India Today, it suggests a small percentage of recruits to be inducted for a three year period, at the end of three years a percentage to be retained if found suitable, the rest would be absorbed in the corporate world details are expected to be announced on an auspicious date/day. It has been said that this would lead to a saving in the 'Huge Pension Bill' whilst also ensuring a 'Youthful Army'.

Social media is buzzing with skepticism and criticism of the ghost proposal, some have even gone to the extent of faulting the Military Leadership for toeing the line for such a proposal which many feel is impractical. Maj Gen Yash Mor went on record on a TV News Channel to express dismay, sympathise with the youth who had been vying to join the forces for the past two years and call this proposal 'mungeri ke sapne'.

Such a proposal if enforced without being properly thought through, taking the inputs of Commanding Officers, is unlikely to work. It would amount quite similar to various state Governments announcing that more Management /engineering Colleges  have been opened to ensure the youth get good jobs, while there has been no industrial growth to assimilate such youth who in any case have not not had the desired learning to fit them in the job. Many such youth can be seen looking for jobs as bus conductors!

All commanding officers beware of the management challenges! If I were a Commanding Officer I would shudder at the thought of getting an ill trained Young soldier who was sure in his mind that he would leave for greener pastures in the corporate world and had joined to earn money as well as a stamp of having been a soldier! The net result could well be:-

Creation of  a class within the class of soldiers. The regulars would hesitate taking such men into patrols, ambushes and so forth where lives were at risk,knowing that such an individual is looking for an opportunity to leave and move on.Team building at the Section level is likely to be hit..

Issue of motivation and regimentation versus self centered short term Soldiering is likely to haunt the Commanding Officer day and night.

While the regular soldiers are well disciplined such 'mercenaries' can be expected to question orders, challenge regimentation and encourage indiscipline.

The trust, confidence and faith built up over years in an institutionalised manner amongst the regular soldier and his team as well as the chain of command would be mostly lacking in the Agnipath recruits.

Training Standards are invariably going to be diluted and with the current shortage of manpower as well as officers combined with the over burdened list of commitments the Unit will find itself on the back foot to even identify those who could be retained as against those who must be relieved.

Needless to say that it takes anything upwards of five or six years for a sepoy to integrate into the team, assimilate training and skill as a soldier. With this new scheme, there would be a turn over of such individuals after every three years, other than diluting the existing strength of the basic fighting unit/sub unit and /or saving a little sum on pensions( which would also have to be compensated in some form) there appears to be zero benefit.

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What Are The Risks?

Lateral induction into CAPFs? Already being rejected, there is no shortage of ranks in the CAPF, induction of such individuals is not likely to be well taken by the rank and file.Re employment for technical arms and services might just  happen but who will these jawans compete with for the job? what about infantry the sword arm? Do they continue to stand outside banks as security guards?

Unless the soldiers are seconded to CAPF or Corporates in a well thought out manner, we are likely to be saddled with disgruntled youth, trained in combat and the  risk of  their joining insurgents/terror outfits?

Cost cutting? Or a facade? The Army would incur huge waste of funds in training and then sending them out!? While a regular soldier is likely to serve for a minimum of 18 years , we would have Six Batches of the ToD turned over in that period, what savings would this entail? Huge costs are being incurred by the Government in wasteful expenditure, pensions of politicians, manpower being deployed on personal security of politicians, bureaucrats and others, NFFU and OROP granted to every organisation other than the Armed Forces, cost cutting appears to be a fad of the bureaucrats and politicians as far as Armed Forces are concerned and it no longer holds good.

Risking experimentation at the cost of national security, military ethos, custom and culture in the face of emerging threats from China and Pakistan appears illogical at best. Discouraging soldiering at the cost of encouraging tourism? Is it even worth considering?

A Possible Solution

Is there is a need for a tried and tested strategy, follow the Israeli system?

  • Identify youth at school level.
  • Carry out screening and selection based on various parameters including performance in academics, IQ, Physical Fitness and Aptitude
  • Sponsor studies, on completion of study, join Armed Forces for stipulated period.
  • Undertaking to serve in operations, wherever ordered.
  • On completion of tenure, sponsor further studies to arm and prepare them for corporate jobs or upgrade to Officer Cadre.

Last Words

To implement a change just for the sake of claiming 'humne kar ke dikhaya' is a slogan best avoided when dealing with a sensitive issue as national security. Any such proposal out of compulsion must be examined and commented upon by Commanding Officers and the 'top down approach be avoided'.

Should this be indulged in as an experiment? let it be the CAPFs who try it out! We need to keep in mind the shortfall of eight thousand officers, many pending applications for premature release and the roughly two lakh shortfall in the rank and file.

Efforts must be made to first fill up these voids by making the Armed Forces attractive, something that can only be done by restoring  the pride in the uniform. One can express concern about such matters, however, it is for the powers that be to reconsider or take responsibility for the flawed policy.

About The Author

The author is a veteran with 35 years of military experience under his belt. He was commissioned into the JAT regiment & has extensively operated in J&K, Punjab, Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram. He was, selected to raise the NSG & was a Sqn Cdr with the 51 SAG, Instr at IMA, Col GS of an active div, Cdr of a Bde in super HAA, DS in AWC, & Brig Gen Staff responsible for facilitating the training in various military establishments including CITJW school. He has been a member of study groups on China as well as Officer Cadre management.

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

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