Retired soldiers are NOT the solution for counter-LWE operations


The Soldier is the real weapon of the Indian Army

As a fallout of the recent stand-off between the Home Ministry and the Defence Ministry on the use of the Armed Forces to take on Left Wing Extremism (LWE),  a proposal to employ ex-servicemen on a three year contract for de-mining and other ‘specific’ operations was floated by some senior Home Ministry officials. The issue merits debate.   

Prima facie, the proposal, in the current form, will be  a non-starter for the following reasons. The colour service of a soldier in the army is 17 years which means that he has to serve this duration in case he wants to earn his pension. This pension is one of the most important motivators for any soldier to complete his tenure. The motivators to stay on beyond the pensionable service include promotion prospects with the financial benefits and perks thereof and the prestige of a higher rank. The reasons why many soldiers quit the army immediately after completing 17 years service i.e. after completing pensionable service, are varied. These include, to ‘settle down’ permanently at a place and live a ‘normal’  and un-nomadic life; to give more time to the family and children’s education; to migrate abroad for greener pastures; to tend to ancestral property and so on.    

With this background, what could motivate an ex-serviceman who has quit the army, to join the para-military forces and take on the Left Wing Elements? Probably nothing, since the money is unlikely to be substantial enough to motivate him to don his fatigues again. It is not that soldiers do not quit to join other forces. Presently Gorkha soldiers are being recruited in large numbers to serve private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are paid the enormous sums of money and are well looked after in the best of private hospitals in case they suffer injury during the tenure. However, it is unlikely that the Home Ministry will pay anything comparable. There will be takers for this scheme, however it will not be in the numbers that will make a difference in operations.    

So what is the way forward? One possible option is to implement lateral induction into the para-military forces for army soldiers. Many army soldiers would prefer to continue in service instead of having to contend with life in civvy street. However, those soldiers who have missed promotions have to quit at 17 years service. These soldiers form a large number, and could be offered lateral induction into para-military forces with the hope of continuing in service there including being considered for promotions. This is one way to ensure these trained soldiers with counter-insurgency skills are not lost. A slightly different but equally effective arrangement exists in the Defence Security Corps where ex-servicemen are recruited in the DSC and continue on terms of engagement similar to that in the army. The vacancies in this organisation are usually over-subscribed due to the relatively easier nature of duties and fact that the soldier continues to get his pension from his previous service as well as the present salary. In case the soldier completes 15 years in the DSC, he is entitled to a second pension as well.    

Thus it is evident that the Home Ministry will have to come up with innovative and attractive terms and conditions for ex-servicemen to shed the olive greens and don the khakis.    





2 Responses to “Retired soldiers are NOT the solution for counter-LWE operations”

  1. Rather than starting yet another security organisation it would better to have them inducted within CRPF/BSF or the other existing para-military force. Police forces should also allow them laterally. It is time that we started thinking of second careers. Retirement after 17 years of service is too young. While this is justified for the army since an average age is required to be maintained to have a fighting forces, these ‘retired’ soldiers can continue to be productive and enjoy the second careers. This in no way to impact their existing pension. They have earned that with their service, the second career will be an additional income. Nothing stops people in the private sector from starting with different organisations if they their skills and talents are required. What stops the government from doing this? They need people with the skills, there is a large pool available -tap into it

    Do you have numbers for soldiers that retire after 17 years, what is the average age when they retire, what %age of retirements for the army after these soldiers who have retired after 17 years of service? Similarly, what is the average age of non-officer soldiers/police in para-military forces/police? Considering how steep the pyramid is in the Army this would be quite a large number

    Isn’t it illegal for Indian to serve in Iraq without government approval?

  2. Dear Ms Kapadia,

    Unfortunately we do not have the numbers that you are looking for. This kind of research is sorely lacking and is vital for decision making. This lack of instituitional introspection is hurting our establishments. Hopefully RTIs and concerned citizens will be able to raise the level of consciousness to the requisite levels in due course of time.

    We unfortunately are not aware of the legal status of Indians about serving in Iraq. It is probably NOT illegal. In any case the contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan specifically look for Gorkha troops including those having Indian domicile.

    Hope this helps.


    The ISM Team

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