“It is only after tremendous sacrifice and hardship that traditions are built and camaraderie is created, which ultimately plays on the psyche of the troops as they face extreme danger. The class units of the Indian Army have reached their current standards after almost two centuries of hard work and sacrifice. They lived by their calling, centered on Naam, Namak and Nishan and the battle cry of unity.
“With this ‘Tour of Duty’ we want to destroy a well-established system and model of the Indian military, which is otherwise recognized as one of the best in the world. We do all this while the Dragon is already at our doorstep.
Unfortunately, those working on these unwarranted plans have no idea what the military is for. None of them or their children have ever served in the military. On the other hand, a good number of American presidents had served in the armed forces of the country.
The Defense Service Pension Bill is a matter of great concern to the Indian government. General Bipin Rawat, as Chief of the Defense Staff, also seemed worried about it. The staff strength of the defense services is around 1.5 million, while that of civilians in the Ministry of Defense is 3.75 lakh. However, their pension in proportional terms is much higher than that of military personnel. The pension bill of the state police and central police organizations is also much higher than that of soldiers.
CPOs retire at age 58 and receive a much higher pension than military personnel, who retire at 35-37. The latter do not receive half of their salary as a pension because they do not serve for the minimum of 20 years. Therefore, when the soldier and the policeman reach 60 years of age, the latter would have pulled around Rs 57 lakh more than the soldier. The life of a soldier ends at 61-62 years old while the average age of a policeman is 70-71 years old and that of a railway employee is 73 years old.
Soldiers’ lifespan is shorter due to early retirement, less pension, and increasing financial worries.
To further disadvantage the soldier, the government plans to introduce Tour of Duty (ToD). Under this program, soldiers will serve for four years and then be discharged. Among these demobilized soldiers, a certain percentage (30 to 50%) would be re-enlisted for another 15 years. Prior service of four years will not be taken into account for salary and subsequent pension. The discrimination and injustice in this area are too obvious to ignore. Those left behind after four years of service will be trained in various technical skills. Some may have the opportunity to work towards a degree or an engineering degree, etc. Given the state of unemployment in the country, they are likely to remain unemployed. Thousands of these unemployed, well trained in the use of weapons, could create an entirely different internal security situation. How come this great proposition of Tour of Duty is not applied to civil services, police and CPO?
With the ever-increasing introduction of high technology into defense force weapons and equipment, what operational skills would these inductees acquire over these four years and then deliver? As also, every four years, new batches would be trained in these high-tech weapons and equipment. This will have its own financial implications.
The other part of this plan for defense service (which relates more to the military) is that the regimental system, where combat arms units are based on a class basis (whole unit or companies/squadrons/batteries within units), will be removed. In the future, they will attract troops from all communities and religions from all over India. In other words, the Indian Army would phase out single-class units and two- or three-class sub-units.
So far, army units have performed unparalleled in various wars, driven by regimental traditions and religion-based war cries. It is only after tremendous sacrifice and hardship that traditions are built and camaraderie is created, which ultimately plays on the psyche of the troops as they face extreme danger. The class units of the Indian Army have reached their current standards after almost two centuries of hard work and sacrifice. They lived by their calling, centered on Naam, Namak and Nishan and the battle cry of unity.
Currently, the defense budget is about 1.5% of GDP, which is rather low. Of this, the required percentage for revenue is quite high, leaving less money for capital expenditure (modernization, etc.). If the allocation is raised to 3 percent of GDP, as recommended by various parliamentary committees, revenue spending would fall to around 40 percent of the defense budget.
A higher allocation for defense is unlikely due to our politicians’ distorted view of national security. Speaking in parliament, a finance minister observed: “Good defense is more than finances, good defense is a sound foreign policy, a good no-neighborhood policy. Thus, financial allocations for defence, of low priority, and relations with neighbors remain indifferent.
China’s defense budget is five times that of India. India spends a larger percentage of GDP on homeland security and VIP security than on revenue spending in the defense budget. Beyond the financial angle, the larger question is the impact that this new recruitment policy will have on the overall performance of the military and in particular that of the Army.
The army is a component of the government that has always been up to the task, despite all its disadvantages in terms of weapons and equipment, the unfair agreements of successive salary commissions, etc. Yet it is this very element that we seemed determined to downgrade or perhaps destroy. Will these four-year tenure types have the essential motivation and will to lay down their lives when the call is called, knowing that they are only there for four years? Will they soak up that regimental spirit and the battle cry of unity that keeps them going through a hail of bullets and explosive shells, with comrades falling left and right and up those impossible slopes to drive cold steel into the enemy?
Unfortunately, those working on these pointless projects have no idea what the military is for. None of them or their children have ever served in the military. On the other hand, a good number of American presidents had served in the armed forces of the country.
Philip Mason, an ICS officer, in his book A Matter of Honor (1974), expanding on the long history of Indian armies’ defeats, reports: “No one has thought how best to provide an army that protect the state. Where was the disadvantage! I believe it lay in the ideas of warfare, the nature of the organization of armies, and ultimately the politics and type of governments that had developed in India. How different we are today!
With this “Tour of Duty”, we want to destroy a well-established system and model of the Indian army, which is otherwise recognized as one of the best in the world. We do all this while the Dragon is already at our doorstep.
(The author is a retired Indian Army Lieutenant General)