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India Considers Drafting Civilians in Army

NEW DELHI: The Indian army is planning to draft young civilian professionals as officers under a voluntary three-year tour of duty program to make up for a shortfall in the upper ranks.
“We will benefit by getting younger manpower and the society will benefit by getting people who are disciplined and have imbibed the ethos of the army,” Army chief Gen. M. M. Naravane told reporters on Wednesday.

He said that the idea emerged from interactions with students at schools and colleges.
“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 to three years,” Naravane said.
The army has called the program “Tour of Duty” (ToD), or “three-year short service,” and is planing to trial it in the coming years.

Under existing rules, personnel are released after 10 and 14 years of service.

 present, the Army recruits young people under short service commission for an initial tenure of 10 years.

“The Army is considering a proposal to allow civilians to join the force for a period of three years,” an Army spokesperson said in reply to a query.

The Army has been making various efforts to attract talented young people to join it.

Sources said the proposal is part of broad efforts to bring in reform in the 1.3 million-strong Army.

They said the broad contours of the proposal are yet to be finalised.

‘Tour of Duty’ to allow civilians, including young working professionals, to join the force for a three-year tenure as officers and in other ranks for a variety of roles — even of front-line fighters.

The proposal, which is a part of broad reforms envisaged for the force, is set to be discussed at a conference of top commanders of the Indian Army following which the process would be taken forward, sources said, adding the scheme will benefit the Army financially.

Such a voluntary three-year-stint would be distinct from a permanent job in the armed forces, which entails pension and other such benefits. It is also distinct from conscription into the military, which is compulsory enlistment of able-bodied people into the armed forces for a limited amount of time. Several countries around the world have laws regarding such conscription, although these laws are implemented to various degrees.

According to the proposal, the people to be recruited under the ToD will be eligible to be deployed as combatants in key forward locations and there will be no restrictions in their roles.

At present, the Army recruits young people under short service commission for an initial tenure of 10 years which is extendable up to 14 years.

According to the proposal, the people to be recruited under the ToD will be eligible to be deployed as combatants in key forward locations and there will be no restrictions in their roles.

Sources said that the Indian Army would gain a significant financial benefit from the ToD scheme as it will save a huge amount of money on gratuity, severance packages, leave encashment and pension.

Young working professionals would be allowed to apply under ToD, they said.

The Indian Army has also made a comparative study on whether the training costs on people to be recruited under ToD will be commensurate with their subsequent limited employment for only three years.

The initial approximate financial calculations show that the financial benefits accrued would be exponential.

According to Pew Research, in most countries (85) around the world, there are no laws for conscription into the armed forces. In 60 countries, conscription has been legally authorised and is actually implemented. There are 23 countries where conscription laws exist but people are not presently being drafted through the mechanism, and there are another 23 countries that do not have a regular military.

Both North Korea and South Korea have strict systems of military conscription. In South Korea, all able-bodied males are required to complete 21 months of national service in the army, 23 months in the navy or 24 months in the air force. However, there are exemptions in some cases, such as those for sportsperson who win a gold medal at the Olympics and the Asian Games.

According to BBC, North Korea has the world’s longest compulsory military service, at 11 years for men and seven years for women.

In Israel, military service is compulsory for both men and women. The duration for men is three years and for women, it is two years. Exemptions are made in some cases, such as on medical grounds and on account of religious beliefs.

On the other hand, in the United States, men between 18 years and 25 years of age are required to register with the Selective Service System. However, this system is a contingency plan, and the system maintains information on those who may be compulsorily made to enlist with the military. As of now, the US has an all-volunteer force.

Col. Anil Bhat, a retired public relations officer in the army, hailed the program: “Young people have a greater sense of nationalism today than before and it is time that the youngsters should be exposed to the idea of army discipline to build a new culture in the nation.”

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