When I first head the Army proposal to enlist jawans and officers on “Tour of Duty” or short tenures of three years- my first reaction was – it should not be done!
Why? The reason was simple.
I am a third-generation Fauji; I know what wearing the military uniform means. Serving in the Indian Armed forces is not just another career option; it is a way of life that you proudly carry way beyond retirement and, in many cases, lived by generations.
When the young Lieutenant Birol Das, of Indian Army, punched the Chinese major- he was not only taking a stand to defend India’s borders but also living up to his family’s rich military tradition. That is how deep Indian armed forces tradition flows – it runs into family DNA.
So, ask yourself, why would anyone coming on “Tour of Duty,” as if armed forces were another tourist place, ever understand and its values, traditions, ethos, and respect its work culture? The bedrock of our defense forces is in its value system; that propels likes of Lt. Das to Colonel Ashutosh Sharma, who recently laid down his like in Handwara, in the state of J&K, to go into the harm’s way voluntarily.
Most veterans and those in uniform would agree with me- when I say that armed forces know how to make a donkey(with all due respect to the animal) dance like a horse. But it is not possible to instill the love for uniform- it has to come naturally.
Thus, the harder I thought about the implication of ‘tour of duty,’ the more I was convinced that such a move was not in the interest of our nation, and it would leave dents in the organization.
But, then the Eureka !! moment.
This morning, as I was checking for updates on my NCC WhatsApp group, that comprises of over 70 friends with whom I had to spend amazing three years as part of the Andhra Pradesh NCC directorate, way back in the 90s, this thought occurred to me, why not tap the NCC for “Tour of Duty.”
Currently, NCC cadets on completion of the C certificate can apply for the service selection Board (SSB) exams for commissioning into the tri-services.
What if these cadets post C certificate has an option to enlist for the “Tour of Duty” after following due selection procedures. Such a move could address three issues, namely making up the shortfall, cutting down on defense budget, and not compromising on the quality of human resources.
One thought quickly turned into a flood.
Before I go forward, I must say this when I compare my NCC batchmates with other acquaintances from the 90s; there is a noticeable difference in the way both groups have developed professionally and personally.
My NCC mates have gone onto carve a place for themselves in society both at home and aboard. And without any hesitation, I give all the credit to the NCC, for shaping a bunch of young boys and girls into responsible and purposeful citizens. Coming back to the National Cadet Corps, it is probably “the largest uniformed youth organization” in the world, with over 13 million youth.
Can this be NCC an inflection point?
Lakhs of students voluntarily enroll in any one of the tri-services NCC units from Army, Airforce, and Navy. Then, NCC grooms and trains these cadets into responsible citizens. A majority of them never make it to the armed forces even though most of them would love to.
So, I propose to tap into the NCC and enlist the cadets after completion of the C certificate for “Tour of Duty.” Not just of the Indian army but also for tri-services and other paramilitary forces.
So Why NCC in the first place:
Each year thousands of teenagers join the junior or senior division of NCC. What drives them is the sense of service to the nation and or the love for the uniform. These youth, as cadets, undergo tough training all through the course of their stay – two years in the junior division and three years in the senior division.
The tri-service cadets learn drills, firearms, minor tactics, and skills relevant to their choice of arms, such as gliding for air wings and sailing for naval cadets.
Youth with such skills can easily be integrated into the forces, especially those on the short tenures.
Each year hundreds of cadets, from pan India, assemble in New Delhi to participate in the Republic-day parade competitions. They have to undergo rigorous year-long training and selection before making it to the national RD camp.
During the RD camp, the cadets take part in multiple competitions such as drills, cross-country running, shooting, obstacle course they do everything that a solider does, but in a scaled-down model.
A selected few get to march on the Rajpath rubbing shoulders with regular soldiers from the Indian armed and paramilitary forces. The professionalism and josh of these cadets are on par with the solders.
Now that we know, NCC can be a reliable resource to augment the tri-services human resource. Let us see the additional steps that need to be taken to establish NCC as the supply source.
1. Expand the Reach: Currently, 17 NCC Directorates represent nearly 35 states and union territories. The seven Northeastern states are represented by one directorate. The organization should expand to reach deeper into the rural and Northeast India. While NCC works towards “developing character, comradeship, discipline, a secular outlook, and the spirit,” among youth, it also helps in building a large talent pool for armed forces and other organizations to tap into.
2.Pre-SSB Screening: Airwing NCC conducts PABT for the senior division cadets who aspire to join the flying branch of the Indian Airforce. Similarly, pre-SSB screening can be conducted for final year cadets who aspire to join as officers in the tri-services. This will help in reducing intake time.
3.Pre-selection for JCOs & Jawans: Final year cadets for Junior and Senior Division who don’t make the cut officers could be pre-screened to enlist as JCOs and Jawans. These disciplined and trained youth could easily be deployed in most peace stations for administration and logistics duties giving time to regular soldiers to take part in training and upskilling.
NCC cadets have been at the forefront, be it social work, adventure activities, or national duty.
Thus, the government and the armed forces have a readily available pool of committed, talented, and disciplined volunteer force that can be enlisted on Tour of Duty as an officer, Junior commissioned officer, and jawans.
The “Tour Of Duty” could be the inflection point for NCC to go beyond its current mandate and play an active role in defense of the country.
Input source Wikipedia and https://indiancc.nic.in
Maj Sunil Shetty, SM (Retd)
Veteran, Journalist and Entrepreneur
Founder of My Startup Tv