Short Service in the Army is set to get shorter. The force is working on a pilot project to recruit young men and women for a period of three years to stem the shortfall in its officer rank. Currently, the minimum an officer serves in the Army is 10 years under the Short Service Commission.
The Tour of Duty will be open to all able-bodied volunteers across all arms. There will be no compromise on training and no post-retirement benefits that will be extended to these officers. But if they become battle casualties, they will be given the same benefits as regular officers, ie family pensions and ECHS facilities.
The proposal, as and when it is cleared by the government, will meet the Army’s twin challenge of plugging the shortage of officers and keeping its burgeoning pension bill under control. Currently, 30 per cent of India’s defence budget goes in paying pensions.
The first experiment of the Tour of Duty model will recruit 100 officers and 1,000 jawans. Of the three years, one year will be spent on training.
Why will a youngster sign up to serve for just three years? The army feels the biggest incentive is a chance to serve your country and belt up a life experience like none other. They are hoping to attract the best talent from Indian universities, including the IITs.
The Tour of Duty is not the only recruitment model on the table. The Inverse Induction model will bring in personnel from the Central Armed Police Forces into the Army’s structure for seven years and train them into battle-hardened soldiers. These soldiers then go back to their parent force and upon retirement, draw pension from the Ministry of Home Affairs and not the Ministry of Defence.
CDS Gen Bipin Rawat has already cleared a proposal to increase the retirement age of jawans who typically serve for 15 or 17 years and retire at the age of 38. He wants them to serve till the age of 58 so that there can be optimal use of trained manpower and pension bills can be reduced.