Tour of Duty: Army’s inclusive plan for new recruits likely to be ready by month end

The Army is finalising the finer details of the Tour of Duty plan, which is planned to replace the existing structure of joining the force. Sources aware of the details told The Indian Express that the final structure of the programme could be ready as early as by May end.

Once the Army approves the plan, it will be up to the government to announce and implement it. Defence officials are hopeful that the government will give a go ahead soon as no new recruitment has taken place for two years.

There is a vacancy of more than 1 lakh Junior Commissioned Officers of Other Ranks in the Army at the moment, according to data shared by the Defence Ministry with Parliament on March 28. It also noted that while more than 90 recruitment rallies each were held in 2017, 2018 and 2019, only 47 were held in 2020-2021, and just four in 2021-2022, due to the pandemic.

Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt stated that “all recruitment rallies by Army Recruiting Offices (AROs)/Zonal Recruiting Offices (ZROs) stand suspended due to COVID-19 pandemic”. The suspension of recruitment in the armed forces has become a major concern among the youth. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh was even confronted by angry youth at some of his rallies in the run-up to the UP Assembly elections earlier this year.

While initially planned as a three-year Tour of Duty, the final structure could make it for four to five years, as one-year training and two-year service after that, it was felt, was too short a time period. At the moment jawans retire after 17 years of service.

Unlike the current structure, where soldiers are inducted into the regiments based on their caste and the region where they come from, an inheritance of the days of the British empire, the new structure will make it pan-India and independent of the caste.

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There are regiments like Rajputana, Jat, Sikh, Jammu and Kashmir, Madras etc, which have officers from all across the country, but the soldiers largely come from their respective regions and for some regiments, they belong to just a particular caste. Some regiments have soldiers from more than one region, though.

The new Tour of Duty system will slowly remove such barriers, allowing any applicant from any part of the country to be able to join the Army.

The Tour of Duty is also expected to reduce the Army’s pension burden, as the country has a large population of retired servicemen. For the current fiscal, the government has allocated nearly Rs 1.2 lakh crore for pensions for the Defence Ministry and the armed forces, which is about a quarter of the total defence budget and larger than the capital acquisition allocation.

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