Tour of Duty, an ill-conceived idea

Tour of Duty, an ill-conceived idea

New Delhi: Indian Army Corps of Signals contingent led by Captain Tanya Shergil, marches during the 71st Republic Day Parade at Rajpath, in New Delhi, Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020. (PTI Photo/Kamal Singh) (PTI1_26_2020_000126A)

The proposal, now under consideration of the army and the government, to offer a short tenure of three years in the service, called Tour of Duty (ToD), for young people on a voluntary basis is not a well-conceived idea, and will not meet the objectives claimed for it. The details of the proposal are still not clear, and only a broad outline of the scheme is available now. The Chief of Defence Staff and the army chief have mentioned it in positive terms. It envisages induction of 100 officers and 1,000 personnel of other ranks every year into the service for three years and to give them training and internship during the term. They will be paid fairly well but will not be entitled to pension and other retirement benefits. However, they will be given preference for employment in the public and private sectors. It is claimed that the scheme will be useful for the army, which has faced a severe shortage of officers and even of other personnel and will help to reduce its rising salary and pension expenditure. 

The merits of the scheme and the claimed benefits are questionable. Recruits for all positions have to undergo long and rigorous training in the army before they become fully functional and disciplined members of the organisation. The ToD recruits will only have a short training stint, they will take time to get used to the environment and will only have a short duration of effective service. It is unlikely that they will develop a sense of belonging to the service during their short tenure there. What contribution can these inadequately trained and ill-equipped youngsters make to the army which needs and deserves the best from its officers and soldiers? Many would only treat the scheme as a three-year course that leads to a job in the future. It may affect the operational efficiency of the army at a time when there should be no compromise on national security. It will also offer no solution to the problem of unemployment in the country. 

The scheme seems to be part of a politics built around ultra-nationalism and glorification of military service. It is unfortunate that the army is pursuing an idea which has its origin in politics and suits a particular brand of politics, though it does not serve its needs and interests and may actually hurt it. It should consider better ways of attracting young people to it as well as to save its shrinking budget. 

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