Tour Of Duty: Why Army’s ‘Internship For Youth’ Proposal Is A Good Idea, And Must Be Implemented Soon

Tour Of Duty: Why Army’s ‘Internship For Youth’ Proposal Is A Good Idea, And Must Be Implemented Soon Young army recruits undergoing training.
Snapshot
  • The Indian Army has put forward a proposal to introduce a short stint in the force for youngsters, and the government must waste no time to implement this.

The Indian Army has come up with a proposal to introduce a three-year stint in the force for youngsters. This proposal is a highly innovative one and will benefit not only the individual, but also the army and society at large.

“The army is held in very high esteem by youngsters and while many do not want a career in the force, they would be happy to serve a short stint in the army for the thrill, adventure and pride involved in serving in uniform,” said a senior officer at the NCC Directorate of West Bengal and Sikkim.

The officer said that the professional training, discipline, sense of responsibility and duty, strategic thinking ability, team spirit, leadership qualities, conscientiousness and strong sense of patriotism and sacrifice that a person in uniform inculcates while in the force would make him a prime candidate for jobs in the corporate sector and government after the ‘tour of duty’ (ToD) in the army.

The army has proposed to recruit 100 youngsters in the officers category and 1,000 as jawans in the pilot project. The move will drastically cut down the ballooning salaries and pension bill of the country’s armed forces and significantly reduce defence expenditure.

There will be no compromise with the existing recruitment criterion and standards for ToD officers and jawans, who will have to undergo an initial one-year training. At the end of their three-year tenure, they will get an attractive severance package as a lump sum, but will not get any pension. Also, a ToD officer’s or jawan’s remuneration will be significantly higher than what he would have earned in the private sector or a government job.

Another senior officer at the Army Headquarters who had been involved in framing the proposal pointed out that while a fresh graduate or postgraduate earns about Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 a month on an average, a ToD officer’s salary would be much higher at Rs 80,000 to Rs 90,000.

The army has also proposed that a ToD officer would get a lump sum of about Rs 5 to Rs 6 lakh while a ToD jawan would get Rs 2 to Rs 3 lakh while hanging up his uniform after three exciting years. It has also proposed that the income of ToD officers and jawans be tax-free.

“A young man would ‘retire’ as a ToD officer or jawan at the age of around 26 years or even less, and would be a very attractive and prime recruit for the government sector and corporates. Such a young man would enjoy a huge advantage over others,” the officer said.

“We have also proposed that the government offer preference to such young men and women for jobs in the government sector and PSUs and in case they want to pursue higher studies and other professional courses after their stints in the army, there should be reservations in those for them,” said the officer.

The initial recruitment of 100 officers and 1,000 jawans would be a pilot project of sorts. But what the army also needs to do here is keep the option of offering a short service commission (SSC, of 10 years) or even permanent commission (PC) to exceptional ToD officers. And ToD officers ought to have an assured rank of Captain on completion of their three-year tenure.

Also, in case a ToD officer or jawan dies in the line of duty, his or her family and dependents should be given the same benefits, including access to army medical and CSD facilities, that families of SSC or PC officers get.

The army proposal notes that the ToD scheme will find many takers since unemployment is high in the country and there has been a “resurgence of nationalism and patriotism” among the youth in India of late.

For the army, the gains are manifold. Though the commissioned strength of the army is nearly 50,000 officers, there are about 7,500 vacancies in the junior officer ranks. This acute shortage can be met by ToD officers.

The senior officer at the Army HQs said that the total cumulative amount the army spends on a SSC officer — cost of pre-commission training, pay, allowances, benefits, gratuity, severance package, leave encashment and other costs is approximately Rs 6 crore.

This cost goes up manifold if the SSC officer is absorbed into permanent commission and continues in service until the age of 54 years (the age of retirement for officers of the rank of Colonel).

However, the army has calculated it would have to spend about Rs 83 lakh on a ToD officer. The army’s pay and pension bill has been growing exponentially in recent years and now accounts for a whopping 60 per cent of its budgetary allocation.

Though the defence budget has grown by 68 per cent over the last five years, defence pensions have increased by a huge 146 per cent in the same period.

The army has also proposed induction of personnel from the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) into the army for seven years. These soldiers then return to their parent force, which can utilise the training and expertise such personnel have inculcated during their seven-year stint in the army. And such personnel would draw their pensions from the Union Home Ministry, and not the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat has already cleared a proposal to increase the retirement age of jawans from the present 38 years to 58. That would ensure optimal use of manpower and substantially reduce the army’s pension bill.

What is more, the ToD proposal, once its scaled up, will ensure the existence of a ready reserve force that the country can draw on in times of emergencies. And the benefits of having a large number of disciplined, committed, professional, patriotic and hard-working young people (ex-ToD officers and jawans) in the country cannot be over-emphasised.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh must now ensure that the MoD’s notorious civilian bureaucracy does not sit on the army’s proposals and find faults with them. It should not be yet another case of ‘army proposes, MoD disposes’.

After ensuring its quick passage through the bureaucratic maze, Singh should get it passed by the Union Cabinet and implement the proposals at the earliest. He owes this to the army.

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