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Tour of Duty in Army

Why would the youth like to join as a soldier under Tour of Duty (ToD) with uncertain future? Have we considered the dangers of youth well versed in the use of firearms let loose in the society? A much thorough analysis is needed for the ToD scheme to be enforced on the Armed Forces.

April 16, 2022 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By ADGPI / Facebook, PIB, globesecurity.co.in
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army

 

In the Tour of Duty proposal, Government will recruit soldiers for periods of three and five years, with only 50 per cent of them continuing to serve their full term till their retirement.

Media reports of April 7, 2022, indicate that the government is planning to introduce a new recruitment model in the Indian Army that will allow the government to recruit soldiers for shorter periods of three and five years, with 50 per cent in this category (possibly 25 per cent serving for three years and another 25 per cent for five years) and the balance 50 per cent continuing to serve their full term, as earlier, till they reach their retirement age. The revision is part of the proposed 'Tour of Duty' (ToD) recruitment model, which was first floated in the media two years back in 2020.

The main reason behind the ToD scheme apparently is to reduce the pension bill, as also pay rise and for reducing the revenue expenditure. For this the media has quoted late General Bipin Rawat mooting this idea for reducing the pension bill. Another reason mentioned is to give youngsters a "feel of military life". Concurrently, a Whatsapp message in circulation is quoting Prime Minister Narendra Modi wanting to "discipline" the nation through the ToD scheme.

To instill discipline in the new generations, we need NCC training in all government and private schools. For this, veteran army officers, JCOs and NCOs can function as instructors

NCC contingent at Republic Day parade

First thing first late General Bipin Rawat is being quoted for the ToD concept to reduce the pension bill. But the media does not mention, perhaps advertently, that the same General Bipin Rawat had attributed the poor performance of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Eastern Ladakh including in the Galwan Clash to the short tenures of PLA soldiers. Can we afford to overlook this vital operational aspect? Do we want to dilute the operational capability of our Army by relegating 50 per cent of the soldiers to the level of the PLA?

The pension bill is always allotted separately but for some reason the defence pension bill is repeatedly targeted in media (courtesy the deep state?) whereas the expenditure elsewhere is totally ignored by design, in addition to the Armed Forces not included in Group 'A' Services. In this context, the following need to be considered:

  • We had the ridiculous ratio of 1:4 vis--vis civilian defence employees and their uniformed counterparts few years back which has been tilting more in favour of civilian defence employees.
  • The civilian defence employee cadre has been expanding with faster promotions as they upgrade their promotions periodically. Moreover they are authorised NFU because of which they earn many times more than their uniformed counterparts. Concurrently, the bureaucracy is also expanding quite blatantly.
  • Veteran civil defence employees continue to receive pensions with yearly OROP, having enjoyed NFU while serving.
  • Army soldiers retire between 35-40 years age, whereas all civilian employees including CAPF serve longer by 20-25 years and go through more upgrades and 2-3 additional Pay Commissions. Compared to Army veterans, civilians draw pay for 20-25 years longer and retire with 10-15 times higher pay. Army pensions are so pitiable that even NPS contribution to civilian employees are many times more since NPS gives "additional pay" to everyone till 60 years of age.
  • The CRPF has recently been authorised NFU but the Armed Forces continue to be denied the same.
  • Government is mandated to provide re-employment to soldiers, but is unable to do so. But the genuine demand for OROP to soldiers for them to live an honorable life is denied but given to civilians/bureaucrats. All IAS, IPS and Group 'A' Services not only retire in HAG/above Pay but also enjoy yearly pension revision or OROP - all civilians/bureaucrats retiring upto 2036 will have OROP.

With 50 per cent soldiers being sent out in 3-5 years' service, there is absolutely no chance of them getting any jobs outside other than perhaps security guards

The logic that ToD will fill up the soldier voids in Army is misplaced, where the requirement actually is to address the timely recruitment and recruit training. Also, the expenditure on the more frequent recruitment, additional revenue expenditure on increased establishment and recruit training required will be huge if 50 per cent of the soldiers are to serve only for 3-5 years. How would this match up with the proposed savings in pensions?

Security guard at a commercial establishment

It is but natural that Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants a disciplined nation. But quoting him for the ToD concept not in newspapers but through Whatsapp can well be the trick of the 'deep state'. Is the better way to discipline the youth not right from childhood? Isn't this why 21 RSS Sainik Schools are being established with the first already functional in Lucknow? To instill discipline in the new generations we need NCC training in all government and private schools. For this, there is no need to have an elaborate expanded Directorate General of NCC; veteran army officers, JCOs and NCOs can function as instructors. For junior classes in schools, the training can be akin to that of Boy Scouts and Girl Guides.

According to the media, the onus to rehabilitate the soldiers released after 3-5 years under the ToD system will be that of the Army or the Ministry of Defence (MoD) either through absorption in the Central Armed Police Forces or elsewhere. This is despite the fact that successive Central Pay Commission (CPC) reports have been recommending that soldiers released from the Army should be laterally absorbed in the CAPF. This has never worked out.

With 50 per cent soldiers being sent out in 3-5 years' service, there is absolutely no chance of them getting any jobs outside other than perhaps security guards that are trained by the Army. Here too, a very small percentage may be lucky because security agencies have their own recruitment and some 60-65,000 retiring from the Army every year. Why would youth like to join as a soldier under ToD with uncertain future and not prefer to join the police forces?

Do we want to dilute the operational capability of our Army by relegating 50 per cent of the soldiers to the level of the PLA soldiers, a result of their short tenures?

Have we considered the dangers of youth well versed in the use of firearms let loose in the society? Will they be exploited as armed cadres by politicians and mafias? Or are we consigning them to the fate of joining mercenary forces abroad or function within India as an ideological force akin to the neo-Nazis trained by the CIA and MI6 in Ukraine? On the other hand, if we think that they can be used by intelligence agencies for missions abroad, everyone is not suited for such tasks and the number retiring every year from the Army is too large for this.

Finally, much deeper analysis is warranted for a scheme like the ToD to be enforced on the Armed Forces. In its present shape it would only make our enemies happy.