The proposal to open up the Army to young professionals has been welcomed by Anand Mahindra, the Chairman of the Mahindra Group. The 'Tour of Duty' scheme for the Army is meant to allow civilians, including young working professionals, to join the force for three years as officers and in other ranks in areas like logistics and front-line formations.
In a letter to the Army, Mr Mahindra said the young, fit citizens of India will get an opportunity to gain operational experience in the Army both as soldiers and Officers through this voluntary three year programme.
"I definitely think military training will be an added advantage for Tour of Duty Graduates as they enter the workplace. In fact, considering the rigid standards of selection and training in the Indian Army, the Mahindra Group will be happy to consider their candidature," he added.
The Army is also considering recruiting personnel from the paramilitary and central armed police forces for up to seven years, after which they would be allowed to return to their parent organisations, military sources have said.
The game-changing proposal to allow civilians to work for three years in the Army is being examined by top commanders. If approved, it will be a voluntary engagement and there will be no dilution in selection criteria. "Initially, 100 officers and 1,000 men are being considered for recruitment," Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said.
The sources said details of the proposal are being worked out. Age and fitness will be among the key criteria for recruitment under the "Tour of Duty" or "Three-Year Short Service" Scheme.
There is a "resurgence of nationalism and patriotism" in the country and the proposal attempts to tap the feelings of the youth who do not want to join the Army as a profession but wish to experience military life for a temporary duration, a source said.
The proposal is set to be discussed at a conference of top commanders of the Army, after which the process would be taken forward, the sources said, adding the scheme will also save cost for the Army.
The Army currently recruits young people under Short Service Commission for an initial tenure of 10 years, extendable up to 14 years. According to the proposal, the people to be recruited under the Tour of Duty will be eligible to be deployed as combatants in key forward locations and there will be no restrictions in their roles.
The sources, quoting an internal study, said the Army would gain significant financial benefit from the scheme as it will save a huge amount of money on gratuity, severance packages, leave encashment and pension.
The Army has made a comparative study on whether the training costs on people to be recruited under the Tour of Duty would be justified with their subsequent limited employment for only three years.
The initial approximate financial calculations show that the financial benefits accrued would be exponential. Sources said the cumulative approximate cost of pre-commission training, salary and other expenses is nearly between Rs 5.12 crore and Rs 6.83 crore on an officer if he or she is released after 10 and 14 years. However, similar costs for those released after three years would be just Rs 80 lakh to Rs 85 lakh each.
Since, approximately 50 per cent to 60 per cent of the Short Service Commissioned officers are granted Permanent Commission, the cost of their retention till they are 54 years old is too high.
The savings for only 1,000 soldiers could be Rs 11,000 crore, which can be used for modernisation of the armed forces, the sources said. They said a stint in the Army would also be helpful for young people in getting jobs in corporate as well as government sectors.