By Air Cmde TK Chatterjee (retd).
It was very interesting to read the recent article in HT on ToD viz, “ToD Scheme, An Idea Whose Time Has Come”. All the assumed advantages have been painfully elaborated and stated but none justified with relevant use cases.
What exactly was the primary reason for this grand idea whose time has come? If it was to reduce the cost of maintaining the armed forces, can the armed forces and the tax paying population not ask the government why the percentage of taxpayers in this country is still in single digit, when our GDP is growing at about 7%? How come in other countries it is not so? Why does the taxable bracket in this country start at three times the average per capita income? Why are millions legitimately outside the tax bracket, while more millions are permitted to evade taxation? Why not make some policy changes to raise more disposable income for the exchequer than go into uncharted territories with assumptions that are neither tested nor verified? The fact that this idea will save money can be proved by elementary arithmetic, also the fact that it will bring down the age profile is also a matter of statistical analysis, very basic at that. But can anyone prove that the current age profile of the armed forces has anyway let down the nation? That this “idea” whose time has come is because of the inefficiency of the forces due to high age profiles? No. It has not been done because that is not the reason for this scheme. The decision seems to be purely for financial gains, which will in time unfortunately compromise Bang for the Buck.
It also brings up the contention that the fighting potential of the forces will not be compromised by this “Just In Time Trained” band of soldiers. This is pure jargon. On what basis is this being claimed? An easy way out for all arguments is “it is being done in other countries” and all discussions are expected to stop once it is announced that it is being done in the US of A. Is India’s geopolitics same as any other country, especially the USA? Our societies and our social ethics are totally different and not at all comparable. Even if we agree that it is being done in any other country, can such a country be named which, with such an army of JITT soldiers has won a decisive victory in any major conflict?
Also, it is difficult to understand the claim that these weekend warriors will merge with the existing forces seamlessly, but at the same time, they will wear a different insignia on their uniforms! Is this not a dichotomy at its worst?
Then comes the question of their employability after the ToD. If it is being assumed that these young men from infantry, artillery, etc will be lapped up by today’s corporate world, nothing can be more distant from truth, unless standing as a guard outside an ATM is considered dignified livelihood for a man who not so long ago defended our very nation. Corporate world does not do charity, it is a hard fought and cruel world where survival depends on efficiency. Just being disciplined is a quality ‘good to have’, but never the sole criteria for any employer. Hard skills are a must.
It is obvious that the government is making the financial package attractive to lure young men into this scheme. But the money which they walk out with after 4 years can never be enough to give them a lifetime of dignity. What happens when this money runs out and they stare at their lives ahead, which can be 40 years at least? Can military trained unemployed young hot-blooded men pose danger to society? Have the proponents of this scheme thought this through?
Change is good and it is a must to stay in sync with time. But politically motivated changes done to the armed forces with an eye on the vote bank can produce unfavorable consequences. Our geopolitics, with hostile nations on our northern and western borders, must make us extremely cautious when we attempt to meddle with the time tested organizational structure of the armed forces.
(Author is Retired pilot from IAF. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).