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3-yr ‘Tour of Duty’ for jawans — govt to roll out new recruitment process, not for officers

New Delhi: The Department of Military Affairs has finalised a radical proposal for future recruitment to the armed forces. The Army will be the first to try out the concept, which involves recruiting some soldiers for a fixed period of three years. 

Sources in the defence and security establishment told ThePrint that according to the proposal currently being considered by the government, the Army will implement the ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD) concept, first unveiled in 2020.

The ToD, which is likely to be rolled out on an experimental basis first, aims to recruit soldiers for a fixed time period to lessen the burden of pay rises and pensions, thereby reducing the growing revenue expenditure on the nearly 13-lakh strong force, the sources said.

They added that while the original proposal in 2020 would have extended the ToD to officers as well, it’s now being restricted to jawans, as officers already have the Short Service Commission (SSC) route.

ThePrint had earlier reported about how the Army was caught in an old hiring conflict over whether to implement a three-year tour of duty or to make the existing SSC more attractive. Currently, the focus is on the latter as far as officers are concerned, according to sources.

Sources said that the proposal for contracted recruitment for a few years was first mooted by the late chief of defence staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, who was looking at reducing the burgeoning pension bill as well as revenue expenditure in terms of salaries and other costs.

The government then gave the nod to work on the issue and during subsequent internal meetings, it was felt that besides officers, other ranks could be added too, sources said.

The original ToD proposal stated that the total amount spent on each officer recruited through the scheme would be Rs 80-85 lakh, including pre-commission training, pay, allowances, gratuity, proposed severance packages, leave encashment, and other costs.

“Currently, an amount of Rs 5.12 crore is spent on an SSC officer who retires after 10 years, and Rs 6.83 crore on one who retires after 14 years. The savings on only 1,000 jawans could be Rs 11,000 crore,” the proposal said, adding that this money could be put towards the modernisation of the Army.

Regular recruitment to continue

Sources said that under the new plan, soldiers in the other ranks category would be recruited under ToD for a period of three years, during which they would be trained and put on the job.

They clarified that regular recruitment would continue to take place. However, the effort is to have the ToD make up a significant share of total overall recruitment every year.

Neither the Army, Navy, or Air Force has held any recruitment rallies in the past two years during the pandemic, which has already led to a shortfall of about 1.3 lakh soldiers.

Talking about ToD, sources said that after a period of three years, the soldiers would be given a payout along with priority in recruitment to certain government jobs, including the central armed police forces.

An effort is also on to nudge corporate India into hiring such ex-ToD recruits for specific lines of work in the private sector on a priority basis.

To give youth a taste of military life

Army Chief General M.M. Naravane had in 2020 said that the idea of ToD came up after the Army learnt from visits to colleges and universities that young people were eager to get a taste of Army life.

“When our officers addressed youths in colleges, we came across the feeling that they want to experience Army life, but not as a career. Taking a cue from this, this idea was born of ‘why not give them an opportunity to serve for two or three years,’” he had said.

(Edited by Rohan Manoj)

Also read: 1st challenge for next CDS — Army, Navy, IAF oppose planned changes in retirement-pension rules

Source: The Print

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