Tour of duty-The beginning of the epilogue?

The upper age limit for this year is increased to 23 years. So, if the veteran community commented before its grand announcement that this scheme was not fully thought through, can they be called naysayers?

agnipath scheme protest in india
It appears that the youth of the country has not fallen for the promises of the government. (Photo source: ANI)

By Air Cmde TK Chatterjee(retd)

The revolutionary scheme called Tour of Duty was announced 14 Jun 22 and the first amendment came on 16 Jun 22. The upper age limit for this year is increased to 23 years. So, if the veteran community commented before its grand announcement that this scheme was not fully thought through, can they be called naysayers?

There has been a plethora of writings on the subject by the veteran community. Except for one article in Hindustan Times, I did not come across any that supported the scheme. Everyone of them brought out the various drawbacks that the scheme is fraught with and the long-term consequences that the Indian armed forces are likely to suffer over time. But as I heard the VCAS, IAF say that this scheme has been under consideration for the last two years, I am amazed at how basics have been left out and facts and projections for the future are twisted to support the government narrative.

An article by a retired 3 star very objectively states that Indian armed forces will implement this scheme with full gusto, now that it has been accepted by the services, even if they do not like it. Forces are not farmers that will sit on roads in agitation till the scheme is rolled back. They will do their best to make it a success, with the full knowledge that this is not what they wanted. Such is the ethos of the services, and I dare say that governments of the day do take advantage of the apolitical and disciplined forces of this country. Another 3 star has quantified very meticulously how this scheme will hamper the teeth to tail ratio of our frontline forces. The enormous increase in training requirements will force frontline best officers and JCOs to be sent back to meet the increased training requirements at the training centers thereby upsetting the teeth to tail ratio.

The men and officers retiring from forces after full-service tenures do not have it easy when they commence their second innings in the civil domain. I, at the age of 56, after 33 years of service and 4000 hours of fighter flying, sat with 18-year-olds for examinations to qualify for civil flying license to meet DGCA requirements. Other technically qualified personnel from all three services do find placements in the corporate world in due course. Those from non-technical streams have even more difficulties. For the government and the services to claim that infantry soldiers with 4 years in uniform will be so technically qualified that corporate India will lap them up is not going to cut any ice even for the faithful.

It appears that the youth of the country has not fallen for the promises of the government. They have spoken in the language they can – demonstrations leading to violence and chaos. Political parties not supportive of the ruling party will undoubtedly take advantage of this situation

The question that comes to mind is – when decisions of this magnitude are taken that involve long term national security matters, why are they not put out on some public forum at the planning stage? There are enough think tanks in the country – both for and against the government of the day – who can give opinions and suggestions. From these opinions and suggestions, they can at least guess the reactions they are going to face if they go ahead with the project.

The first amendment is out, more will surely follow. We pray that better sense prevails and the whole process is not allowed to spiral out of control.

(Author is Retired pilot from Indian Air Force. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of Financial Express Online. Reproducing this content without permission is prohibited).

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