What is tour of Duty?
Recently there has been news about Indian Army considering a new scheme for recruitment of Officers and Soldiers known as Tour of Duty. Usually, the recruitment in Army is done in two categories – Short Service Commission (SSC) and Permanent Commission (PC). In SSC, the officers are initially recruited for 10 years extendable to 14 years. In permanent commission the officers serve until the retirement age till the attainment of the retirement age of the last rank served (unless boarded out for any reason medical/disciplinary etc). Such recruitments are done through various Defence Entrance exams like NDA, CDS etc. conducted by UPSC of India.
The proposal of Tour of Duty is another entry scheme, where after the process of initial selection and pre-commissioning training, the candidate will be recruited for no more than 3 years. The engagement will neither be under SSC nor PC but is proposed to be like an internship with the army. The officers or PBORS (Personnel below officers rank) will the pay and allowances equivalent to the regular cadre officers and PBORs however, there will be no severance package or retirement benefits after the engagement of three years is over. There will be no restrictions on the employment of ToD inductees across various arms and services or in front-line fighting units or other units elsewhere.
Many countries like Israel have compulsory military conscription. In such countries every able person has to undergo military training and serve from 2- 3 years. Unlike military conscription, Tour of Duty proposed by Ministry of Defence India is completely voluntary military service. And most likely, all the candidates will have to go through rigorous selection process.
Ministry of Defence sees financial advantage in this proposal since they can reduce their pension bill over long term and free money for modernization of Indian Military. On the other side, a man or a woman who has undergone the Tour of Duty, will turn out to be a huge asset for the nation. The nation and corporates that hire men/women who have completed their Tour of Duty are likely to benefit from a trained, disciplined, confident, diligent and committed young men/women; qualities inculcated in the candidates during their stint in military.
Some experts have challenged the proposal siting reasons like 3 years is too short a time to train a soldier and it may affect the operational preparedness of Indian army in long term.
The idea of Tour of Duty is still at a proposal stage. While the jury is out to determine all pros and cons of the model, experts are trying to plan and answer all the questions. Even though, the proposal has support from various quarters, no one can tell when the detailed will be ready and implemented.