Transforming-transformation into neo-Army
Lt Gen (Dr) Rakesh Sharma (Retd.), Distinguished Fellow, VIF

The essence of transformation in the military is to create a marked change in its character or form – mostly for the better, and moving away from the legacy systems. Normally this transforming transformation perspective is relevant to ‘how we will fight’ component of military transformation. Transforming visions are normally united in the view of new and better ships, tanks and fighters. Rather transformations are layered on conventional warfighting doctrines and strategies (for example the proactive strategy), great technological changes (as in information warfare) or low-level counter-insurgency (like raising of Rashtriya Rifles i.e. RR in India). Transformation that Indian Army will be undergoing hereinafter has a very interesting dynamic – led by complete overhaul of human resource at the level of rank and file! There are but no singular examples in the modern international system that one can bank upon, to rationalise the changes happening!

The writing on the wall is clear, it indicates that the decision to implement the contractual soldier for four years, called ‘Tour of Duty,’ with All-India-All-Class (AIAC) intake in the Army has been taken and the implementation modalities are being worked out. At this juncture it is unnecessary to repeat even the most potent of the arguments on contrarian views on this transformation. The time for that is past, and the Army will have its ‘flab’ pruned, as if by liposuction! Rationalisation is however, imperative to obtain best advantages for an organisation to remain at its prime, and remain ever committed against two adversaries. Contextually, these two diverse strands, the ‘Tour of Duty” and AIAC need examination and recommending valid permutations.

The first is the implementation of the ‘Tour of Duty.’ The foremost issue herein is that the released manpower must be suitably and assuredly jobbed, as a prime consideration for success of the scheme. India is an aspirational society, and hence, assured job post the ‘Tour’’ must be intimated in the terms and conditions of recruitment to become the paramount motivation for those opting to join in. A four-year trained and experienced soldier jobless on the streets may become wayward and be inimical to the society. Additionally, those contracted soldiers that become disabled or casualties, both battle and physical, must have honourable terms of discharge, or facilitation of their dependents, thereafter. This is basic honour-commitment to those having served the nation – even if it was on contract.

The transition from the contractual ‘Tour’ to becoming soldier is equally important. Obviously, a soldier recruited in service initially will be guided by a contract and will not be deemed enrolled with a firm Army number. At end of four years, the entire batch (as per current data 60,000 annually but may witness some revision) will have to undergo a centralised re-recruitment or selection process to select the 25% (or 50% as finally decided). The mode of re-recruitment process must be clearly defined to allow a soldier to prepare for the same. It must not be a repetition of the physical fitness tests/physical measurement parameters-written examination-medical-merit model. In any case, the recruitment system needs modification with a computer based common entrance examination carried out as the first, to shortlist manageable numbers for physical tests and the medical.

It seems that the selected soldier at four years will commence with a clean slate, with the previous four years of contractual period unaccounted for – to distinguish clearly between a contract and formal enrolment! This is a proposition that can turn problematic and even litigative, in denial of regularisation of the contractual period, like for earning pension. For those absorbed into service, this transition must become seamless, like the benefit for having earned medals or awards or even minor punishments, ought to be accounted for.

The second major issue is AIAC intake. It is categorically stated that the mixed class Regiments have performed very commendably always, and AIAC should be an acceptable mode of intake. However AIAC could suffer from lop-sidedness since there could be areas and states with aspirants better off in physical tests and / or in educational standards for written tests. AIAC will benefit these individuals and states, and will NOT be nationally representative. If the attempt is to balance a national, regional and state-wise intake, AIAC may finally turnout to be leading to status-quo, in favour of a few states and regions.

The existing Recruitable Male Population (RMP) Factor based on National census is an ideally developed model, with firm and strict allocation of yearly vacancies per State, as per population. In a variation of AIAC, the recruitment vacancies can be allocated to domiciles of States, but within the States selection should be on merit, and not tailored to suit the current system of largely supporting class-based Regiments. As an example, Punjab State with an RMP of say 2.5, would get say 1200 annual vacancies, while Gujarat (including Dadar, Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu) with an RMP of say 5.0 would get 2400 vacancies (depending on total annual projections), recruitment being on merit. Methodologies can be worked out to address infirmities like lesser intake from some states.

In this new system of AIAC, the character and form of many infantry, armoured, mechanized infantry, artillery regiments and the Corps of Engineers will dramatically change. These Regiments have history and culture derived from centuries or post-Independence valour, battle and theatre honours. Obviously, it will be pointless to call SIKH Regiment or Gorkha Rifles with those names, with eventually AIAC composition. These Regiments proudly carry the valour of Sargarhi or honoured name of Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw!

Is it feasible that the Regiments yet retain the basic character and privileged name with a percentage of original class, now recruited on AIAC basis? It can be easily be appreciated that with distilled State-wise intake based upon AIAC merit, it will not be possible to sustain the wastage (retirements in a year) of for example a 23 battalion Regiment. However, it may be feasible to sustain wastage of say 7-8 battalions of a 23 battalion Regiment. Or simply stated, in Regiment having single class composition troops today of 22,000, it can still retain about 7000 of that class, with the balance being AIAC. In these recruitment parameters firmly based on RMP-AIAC, the proud name of the Regiment could still be carried, even if the single class will be only one-third in strength or even less. Hence Regiments like Jammu and Kashmir Rifles, Dogra, Punjab, Rajput, Gorkha Rifles, and the like will retain their larger identity, and so will the Indian Army. It may be necessary to shed some Regiment or rename, depending upon recruitment pattern, eventually. Needless to say, the proposal will require finesse, data and further examination, though on the face of it this should be feasible.

There are also peculiarities in composition that need to be sustained. Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry, Territorial Army (Home and Hearth) Battalions, Scouts units (Ladakh, Garhwal Rifles, Kumaon, Sikkim and Arunachal) have distinctive roles and rationale, and follow the sons of the soil concept. The transition must accept the distinction as operationally mandatory and allow dispensation.

In sum, the ‘Tour of Duty’ and AIAC intake seeks very major transformation in the Army. The dividing line in such transformation is between academic top down exercise and role of the Army in peace and war. Eventually, Army has the resilience to effect the transformation and adjust. However, Army must remain an honoured vocation for the peoples, joining which brings up the stature of a rural youth. The termination of contract must not stigmatise the individual in his community, which will be counter to nation-building. The system must take advantage of trained and disciplined youth, by providing assured opportunities.

On transformation of intake, as it is, substantial Army is already AIAC, and there is perfect synergy in these units. Yet, there is a character and hard-earned name based on single or multiple class Regiments. It is contended that the culture of theses Regiments can still be retained within the perfect norms of RMP-AIAC, on domicile-merit based enrolment. In transforming transformation the neo-Army ought to stand on firm foundations created by the valiant forefathers!

(The paper is the author’s individual scholastic articulation. The author certifies that the article/paper is original in content, unpublished and it has not been submitted for publication/web upload elsewhere, and that the facts and figures quoted are duly referenced, as needed, and are believed to be correct). (The paper does not necessarily represent the organisational stance... More >>

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