Recently, the Indian Army proposed a ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD) system, which involves a changed format of recruitment with amended terms and conditions for a few officers and personnel below officer rank. A highly manpower intensive organisation such as the 1.3 million strong Indian Army always needs a dynamic pattern of manning and recruitment contingent upon the social environment and budgeting parameters. The domains of officer recruitment and that of jawans are considerably different, and there is a variance in terms and conditions too. Therefore, they must not be confused with each other. This two-part commentary will help to clarify misnomers and ascertain the worthiness of the proposal.
he Indian Army has proposed a few changes which are not transformational in nature, primarily to overcome current identified constraints. First among these is a long-standing challenge of officer shortage. There is no dearth of men and women willing to serve in the Indian Army as officers. However, the issueis not about numbers but about quality. The Indian Army abides by certain standards in its intake, and has, over the years, refused to compromise on this. India’s economic liberalisation, which was initiated in 1991, raised the aspirations bar in the traditional manpower base which provides the officer cadre. This resulted in a dilution in the quality of personnel seeking an army (officer) career, with the commercial world and other professions stealing a march in attracting better recruits.
Consequently, since the turn of the millennium, there have been serious implications at the operational end, with units having to contend with 25-30 per cent shortage in officer cadre even with the security situation in Jammu & Kashmir and other threats intensifying along the borders. An 11,000 personnel shortage in the officer cadre at one time forced the Indian Army to extend the engagement period of the Short Service Commission (SSC) from five to 10 and even 14 years. The higher the age for exit for these officers, the lower their chances are of finding a second career. This situation made SSC less attractive in the long run, especially since the promised and approved system of the Peel Factor never got implemented. The Peel Factor was simply a method of lateral absorption of SSC officers and others from the main cadre who could not be promoted due to shortage of vacancies, into other government services, especially the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF).