By Maj Gen CP Singh (Retd)
Army Chief General MM Naravane addressed a press conference on May 19 introducing Tour of Duty (ToD) concept for entry into Army. He mentioned this scheme is based on feedback that today’s youth wants to experience the adventures and thrills of Army life but do not want to pursue it as a full time career. ToD is about a three years tenure with Army, as officer and jawans giving them a good exposure, experience and dose of discipline to make them more successful in life and better citizens of the country. First batch of 100 officers and 1000 men will be trained to check and validate this concept, once approved. Continuity of Excellence takes a backseat while Innovation and “Out of the Box Thinking” is the flavor of this millennium. However, the details available generate more questions than the answers provided.
Let’s examine this ToD concept at the backdrop of four advantages, which are highlighted here:
- Youth – Contrary to the raison d’etre of ToD entry scheme, I am yet to find such youth in this country, who are fully qualified and competent for regular career in defence forces but only wants to join for three years, as adventure. Today’s youth see this as an offer which leaves them midway, with no option of permanent absorption, irrespective of performance. Presently, they see it as a stop gap arrangement only.
- Nationalism – Whenever we want the acceptability of our “Out of the Box” ideas, we often give it a nationalistic flavour. Training and preparing about 1000 men per year in a population of 130 crores is only a miniscule percentage which will not make a perceptible change in disciplined behaviour of the citizens. It’s also prudent to highlight that these citizens who volunteer for ToD are already disciplined and law abiding citizens. Disciplining the good citizens will defeat the social purpose of ToD entry.
- Army – The Army training establishments are designed for a limited turnover of soldiers and officers retiring every year. The exodus of trained human resource will be a heavy wasteful expenditure. Training such large no of officers and men in limited time to well set standards will also be a challenge. No great advantage accrues from it for the Army.
- Financial Gains – Whenever we want a scheme to pass through the filters of bureaucracy, we prove that it will amount to savings to the exchequer. War is a costly affair and having a competent force of deterrence cannot be weighed in financial gains.
- Defence forces have always maintained exacting selection criteria. By ToD entry, we are agreeing to dilute our standards of intake and training. Such type of human resource will destroy the core competencies of the Army.
- The existing Short Service Commission was started with similar aim. However, the tenure was recently increased from five years to 10-14 years, with a justification that it’s not cost effective to release them after five years. Now, we have taken a full circle and say that we can release them after three years. In that case, compromising the quality of intake or standards of training is detrimental to the war preparedness of the Army.
- My other fear is that as the schemes become old, dull and lacklustre, demand for more and more privileges and concessions like options for permanent service/ extensions/ ex-servicemen status/ECHS/ CSD facilities will be raised from time to time by the ToD soldiers.
- There is no incentive to perform better during these three years like permanent commission or promotion and hence they will lack motivation.
- In Army career, first three years are very crucial for having a strong foundation. No courses or advance training will be provided to these officers and men. This is not good for competence and skill enhancement in the Army.
- The person on ToD will also be looking at these three years for enhancement of his qualifications, getting awards for trophy display sake and focusing on post ToD career options. Soldiering will certainly take a beating.
Some of the cost effective suggestions to reduce training period/costs and having a well trained auxiliary force for national emergency are as follows:-
- Reduce training period of NDA and ACC to three years which is more than adequate.
- Increase service period of physically fit officers and men by two years.
- Augment Territorial Army and resuscitate NCC.
- Create a reserve force of well trained retiring persons for two-four years after retirement, who can be recalled in case of national emergency.
- Work out inverse induction with CAPF and PMF for limited tenure with Army.
Army’s Operational Preparedness
In war, there are no runners up. Either you are a winner or you are not there. For that moment of reckoning, we select the best man and machine for war fighting. It’s the man behind the machine that matters the most. They lead from the front setting personal example of bravery, courage and competence. Competence, leadership, camaraderie, regimentation and battle experience are developed over a period of time and with short tenure of three years, these battle winning factors will certainly be compromised.
In the Army, we are preparing hardcore, battle-worthy and time-tested soldiers, where no compromise is made with the safety and security of the nation. India has 15,000 km of disturbed borders and strained relations with our neighbours like Pakistan and China. Adventures to experiment with the DNA of the Army and its operational readiness can be best avoided. We all are answerable to history and 130 crore Indians. Certainly, both will not excuse those who experiment with national security.
The author is a scholar soldier and has widely travelled in India and abroad. He is an avid reader, prolific writer, social activist, career consultant and a motivational speaker in demand.
The author can be contacted at – www.majgencpsingh.com