Inducting youth for three years under 'Tour of Duty' proposal not good for Army, say officers

In the case of the Short Service Commission too, the service period was raised to 10 years because it was not serving the intended aim, said a retired officer
Image used for representational purposes (Photo | PTI)
Image used for representational purposes (Photo | PTI)

NEW DELHI: The move to induct youth as soldiers into the Indian Army for three years under the 'Tour of Duty' (ToD) proposal to be called 'Agniveer' will not be beneficial for national defence even if it saves money spent towards revenue expenditure including pensions, believe some serving officers and veterans as it will hit at the ethos of the organisation.

“The younger line of combatants will remain to be of the untrained or half-trained kind for it takes years for a soldier to be combat ready,” said a Major General.

Speaking about organisational attachment, the officer explained that in case of high-stress situations like counter terror and counter insurgency operations or in tough terrains like Siachen or Ladakh where a step can make the difference between life and death, such people may crack as they don’t have much to look up as far the organisation is concerned, beyond the three years.

“The performance of the Chinese PLA conscripted soldiers in Galwan and even those in Ukraine has given us enough sense that it was not up to the mark. They could not deliver in tough times where only a hardened soldier will last,” added the officer and said that before he is ready the soldier will be ready to leave the Army. “Being an infantry jawan is not guard duty, he is supposed to fire missiles, rifles and operate communication equipment. It takes around five years to become a soldier. Here he is gone once he becomes a soldier.”

As reported by The New Indian Express, the proposal says, "The model is a solution proposed to be implemented on a trial basis for both officers and other ranks in the Indian armed forces, initially for a limited number of vacancies and then expanded later, if found successful."

This proposal keeps the engagement voluntary, unlike Israel’s practice of requiring three years of military service for every able-bodied person. A youth once selected will be imparted one-year training and three years of service.

Speaking on the proposal, a Lieutenant General (retired) said, “The Indian Army’s performance has been up to the mark in every war because of the ethos, training and regimentation. Regimentation gets developed over a period of time when the soldiers serve together in a bunker under the watch of the officers and the Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) developing a bond where everyone knows about every other person’s family. Thus, the section, platoon and company in units is knit well.”

Next comes the image of the regiment and battalion which will be gradually eroded, said the Major General. "These youth under the Tour of Duty will look for softer options as for them it's just a tour and this will create problems with personnel who will be on permanent recruitment."

In fact, in the case of the Short Service Commission too, the service period was raised to 10 years because it was not serving the intended aim, said the Lieutenant General, adding, "Training is a continuous process for an Army which has to deal with such a long active border with Pakistan and China where the threats are getting complex with every passing day."

A soldier needs not just physical fitness but courage of conviction also and in the quest for fiscal prudence, "We must not tamper with an organisation which is serving the country well. The soldiers don’t even think twice to take on an enemy even at the cost of their lives to defend the country," said a third officer.

Mulling over the cost of training, the proposal puts it at Rs 5.12 crore for an officer serving a 10-year term but under ToD it will be Rs 80-85 lakh. In case of jawans, the saving is mentioned to be Rs 11.5 crores if he serves for three years instead of 17 years minimum.

The report suggested, "At the rate of Rs 11.5 crore saving on one soldier, it will be Rs 11,000 crore for 1000 soldiers. There will be immense savings due to a reduction in pay and gratuity payouts." The saved money could be utilised for the much-needed modernization.

The proposal is deemed to be equally beneficial for the youth, nation and corporates as they will get trained, disciplined, confident, diligent and committed young men and women after their ToD.

In case of any unfortunate eventuality, all the benefits will get extended to the person or the next of kin as is due to a regular officer or jawan.

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