In a game-changing move, the Indian Army is considering a proposal to allow civilians including young working professionals to join the force for a three-year tenure as officers and in other ranks for a variety of roles, including front-line fighters.
On Wednesday, Army Chief General M M Naravane said that the idea to open up Army for civilians came up after they learnt from visits to colleges and universities that the youth were eager to experience army life. “When our officers addressed youths in colleges, we came across the feeling that they want to experience army life, but not as a career. Taking a cue from this, this idea was born of why not give them an opportunity to serve for two to three years,” Army Chief General M M Naravane said.
The Army Chief added that the country will benefit by getting younger manpower and the society will benefit by getting people who are disciplined and have imbibed the ethos of the army.
Will be implemented on a trial basis and model is cost-effective: Army officials
According to senior officials in the Army, the proposed model of Tour of Duty (ToD) will be implemented on a trial basis for officers and other ranks in the army for a limited number of vacancies. The vacancies will be increased if the model is successful. The proposal is a shift from the concept of permanent service in the armed forces towards an “internship” for three years.
The ToD scheme, if and when approved, will initially be launched with around 100 vacancies for officers and 1,000 for jawans. This move, as per officials, could save huge cost for the Indian Armed Forces as training, pay and allowances, incurred on people joining under the new model would be Rs 80-85 lakhs, as compared to over Rs 6 crore for an officer under the Short Service Commission, who serve up to 14 years.
The proposed model is expected to help save on pensions and other allowances paid out to short-service commissioned officers released after 10 and 14 years of service.
The officials also said that the corporates can benefit from individuals who would serve in the army for three years. The army is also examining a proposal of giving a “token” lum sum amount to officers and jawans exiting from the ToD scheme, to make it more attractive. With this proposed scheme, the army is trying to atract youth from top academic institutes such as IITs.
Voluntary, not compulsory service
The “tour of duty” model will not be similar to ‘conscription’ or compulsory military services like in Israel or some other countries. However, it will be completely voluntary and no relaxations will be allowed in the selection criteria for those wishing to join.
Reportedly, the Army currently has around 43,000 officers, with almost 80% of them in the permanent commission (PC) cadre, and 11.8 lakh other ranks. The minimum service tenure for a short-service commission (SSC) officer is 10 years and 50-60% of them will be granted permanent commission to serve till at least 54 years of age and thereafter to avail benefits of a pension.
One of the rationales behind pushing temporary commission is increasing defence pensions during the last five years. The salary and pension bill of the 14-lakh armed forces and 4-lakh defence civilians, addition to the 31-lakh pensioners, amounts to 56% of the overall annual defence budget, which leaves little for military modernization.