Civilians in Army via three years tour of duty: Too early to deride it

Published: May 14, 2020 3:40:09 PM

I am expressing my views with great caution since I understand that the proposal is still under deliberation and no details are available in the public domain. At this stage, it may be premature either to laud it or to deride it in any way.

Civilians in Army,indian army,civil industry, government jobs, permanent career soldiers, Territorial Army Battalions,latest news on indian armyIt is also aimed at attracting the best talent of the country to its folds. (Representational image: IE)

By Lt Gen Anil Ahuja (Retd)

A media report has appeared today regarding Army proposing to allow a three years tour of duty to the common citizens, to give them an opportunity to serve the nation. It is also aimed at attracting the best talent of the country to its folds. The report suggests that the proposal is still being discussed.

I am expressing my views with great caution since I understand that the proposal is still under deliberation and no details are available in the public domain. At this stage, it may be premature either to laud it or to deride it in any way.

To view the proposal objectively, we need to consider as to what is the aim of this scheme? The stated aim in the media report is to `attract the best talent to the forces’. Another aim could be to give an opportunity to the young citizens to gain hands-on experience of the life in the armed forces and thereby, inculcate, voluntarily, virtues of self-discipline and rigour in their own lives. It will also enable the development of empathy amongst the citizens for the soldiers.

In this context, firstly – it would need to be worked out as to how the `best talent’, which otherwise may not be looking at the armed forces as a permanent career would spare three years or more (including pre-induction training) from the mainstream career pursuit? No profession allows a `detour’ of three years from the mainstream, unless it has some tangible benefits or payoffs for the aspirant.

Secondly, the three years military tour of duty may work if it is anchored with some basic professions- in government jobs or in civil industry. This may entail counting of seniority for the primary profession, benefits of outstanding performance during military tenure of duty (or deterrence if not performed well during this attachment period) or some other benefits of admission in some professional college, weightage for certain jobs/ appointments. These would be akin to the Sops (incentives) for short service, which have never been adequate.

Thirdly, getting those, not anchored to any job may be detrimental to the health of the organisation. This is because of the fear of being back to the street, after three years attachment in army may not get the best out of them and they would also tend to vitiate the environment of military units.

Fourthly, deliberate consideration would need to be give about where they are to be employed. In case employed with front line combat units, they will have to be well trained and liabilities for death/injury would need to be provisioned for. In case employed with rear echelons in sundry roles, neither would they get job satisfaction nor will they carry a good image of the organisation after three years.

Fifthly, it needs to be remembered that all inductees coming for three years tenure, will leave the armed forces as their ambassadors. The image in the society would be a function of their experiences. They need to be given the best professional experience and sent out as more motivated, better trained and better-disciplined persons and motivated citizens. For this a clear road map needs to be made with specific billets earmarked in combat units or on challenging assignments.

Sixthly, the services will have to consider the impact of this `roving population’ on permanent career soldiers. It is easy to get lured by the glitter of civilian life in cities and the continuous turnover of a section of unit personnel may become a trigger for regular /permanent soldiers to quit service prematurely.

Finally, the lure of permanent absorption into the services by these permanent inductees, as is experienced in all ranks of the Territorial Army Battalions, post embodiment or amongst the Short Service Officers will have to be curtailed. This, however, defeats the purpose of attracting the best talent.

I am sure the armed forces would be looking at these aspects when they finally introduce this scheme.

(The author is former Deputy Chief of Integrated Defence Staff (Policy Planning and Force Development) and Senior Colonel Commandant of Regiment of Artillery. Views expressed are personal.)

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