A recruitment model first proposed in 2020 with the initial purpose of reducing officers’ shortage in the Army while tackling the growing defence pension bills is likely to be modified to recruit only soldiers on a short-term contract basis.
The recruitment process of soldiers in the Army was halted two years ago after the Covid-19 pandemic broke out in 2020. Aspirants looking to join the defence forces staged a protest on Tuesday at Jantar Mantar against the suspension of recruitment rallies, among other things.
Highly placed sources in the government told News18 that the proposed recruitment model, called Tour of Duty (ToD), is in final stages and undergoing fine-tuning with a slew of meetings held on this over the last two weeks.
As per the sources, the present draft of the scheme states that all soldiers in the Indian Army would eventually be recruited under the Tour of Duty model. Around 25% of them would serve in the Army for three years and 25% troops would serve for five years.
As the draft stands now, the remaining 50% would continue to serve in the Army for the full term till they reach their retirement age, the sources added.
A top source in the government said that initial calculations show this could save a significant portion of the defence pensions bills, which will cumulatively grow every few years.
It has also been proposed that 50% of soldiers who would be released at the end of three and five years be included in the National Pension Scheme and be given certain medical benefits, applicable to Armed Forces veterans, for a fixed period.
The source quoted above added that this proposed recruitment model may not be applicable to officers and only soldiers could be employed under it. The Army has a shortage of 7,476 officers as per data presented in Parliament in December last year.
The exact timeframe of the launch of this proposal is not immediately clear, with the Army awaiting a nod from the Defence Ministry on the proposal.
The scheme might later be extended to the Navy and IAF.
As per latest data accessed by News18, a deficiency of 1.1 lakh soldiers has cropped up in the last two years after recruitment rallies were stopped in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is increasing by about 5,000 troops every month.
‘Training Infra Needs to be Ramped Up to Reduce Pensions Bills’
The Indian Army can train around 40,000 recruits at a time within the existing infrastructure. This is considered adequate to meet the vacancies created by 60,000 soldiers who retire every year, while also catering to routine additional requirements for soldiers raised at times.
While the training period is 34 weeks for general duty soldiers, for tradesmen, it is 19 weeks.
As per sources, even if intake of recruits is increased immediately, it will require six to seven years to fill all these vacancies.
A second source said that if the ToD is implemented and the basic military training for the new recruits is reduced to 19 weeks, even then, around four years would be needed to fill up the shortage of soldiers which has cropped up in the last two years.
But at the same time, the vacancies created by those retiring through ToD at the end of three and five years would also start adding up.
“The Army would have three years from the date of implementation of the scheme to enhance the infrastructure to train additional recruits, who would be needed to fill up the cumulatively increasing vacancies under the ToD,” the second source said.