How Many Soldiers Can Serve till the Retirement Age? Tour of Duty Scheme Has a Sticking Point
The defence establishment is looking at options to decide the exact percentage of troops that can be retained permanently under a proposed scheme to recruit soldiers on short-term contracts, after reports of its possible announcement triggered an outcry.
Highly-placed sources in the government told News18 that hectic discussions are underway within the government and a final decision on the exact contours of the scheme is expected anytime.
The sources further said the sticking point remains the ratio of the number of soldiers who could be released after a fixed short-term tenure to those who could be retained till they reach their retirement age, under the Tour of Duty (ToD) scheme.
The latest draft of the scheme states that all soldiers in the Indian Army would eventually be recruited under the Tour of Duty model, of which around 25% would be released after three years and another 25% on completion of five years.
The remaining 50% would continue to serve in the Army for the full term till they reach their retirement age.
Alongside this, two other combinations are also being examined as well. One of them is to permanently retain 33% of the soldiers recruited, while releasing 33% of them at the end of three and five years each.
The second one entails retaining 40% of the total soldiers recruited while releasing 60% of them in a single board between three and five years. Among those retained, the percentage of technical manpower would be higher, the sources said.
“Various options are being examined to decide on the best one, which will save defence pensions without compromising on the operational edge of the military,” a source said.
The source further said the Army is rooting for the retention of maximum soldiers, which can be gradually reduced over a period of time instead of an immediate cut.
The latest draft of the scheme proposes the maximum retention of soldiers at 50%.
The sources quoted above said it is also being explored if the trained manpower which would be released from the Army at the end of their short-term contracts can be absorbed into the paramilitary forces, which can reduce the latter’s cost of training its personnel. A final call on this is awaited.
Till last month, the Army had a deficiency of 1.1 lakh soldiers after recruitment rallies were stopped in the last two years in the backdrop of the Covid-19 pandemic. This is increasing by about 5,000 troops every month.
The recruitment to the Armed Forces continues to be on hold in the wake of an anticipated decision on the new scheme. At present, there are few recruits being trained in the regimental centres and some of the instructional staff have been sent back to operational units.
Along with the new scheme, a proposal to reduce the strength of the Army by around 15% is also being discussed, the sources quoted above said. “It may be implemented in conjunction with the ToD, leading to a readjustment of the overall shortfall created over the last two years,” he said.