According to an article by Mr Dinaker Peri carried in The Hindu on May 21 2022, driven by the stale argument of a compulsion to reduce the costs of salaries and pensions of the Defense Forces alone, the Government is set to roll out ‘Tour of Duty’ for recruitment of personnel into armed forces, this time with a four year tenure. There would be no recruitment for the next four years after the first batch is inducted after a six month spell of training, they would be paid at similar scales as the regulars and given a golden handshake of ten to twelve lac. The selection and training infrastructure is expected to remain the same.
My observations /comments stem from the thirty five odd years of service in the army and I dare say this is fraught with risk at the unit levels and short sighted.
• How this would save on salaries and pension cannot be justified.
• Whether individuals released will be absorbed by Corporates is uncertain as it would depend largely on Industrial Growth.
• How such raw individuals will fit into the ‘Team’ at subunit levels is inexplicable.
• Can India run the risk of an army with a shaky ‘Morale’.
• Would a “Tour of Duty” passenger, who is not exactly a trained soldier, risk life and limb?
Perhaps an idea borrowed from Israel or the USA where the citizens are more aware and by far better motivated due to various reasons not excluding the strong support as well as respect accorded to the soldiers by their government as well as society.
In the case of the USA, they need to be motivated to fight for a cause (many times misplaced) on foreign soil and for Israel it is a do or die situation for a nation and community, nevertheless , the militaries of both Nations are well taken care of and policies well balanced in a manner sympathetic and supportive to the soldier.
I have quoted the Israeli model in earlier articles, in this instance let me refer to the latest from USA, to quote an article by Mary Green Published: Feb. 1, 2022 Updated: Mar. 3, 2022, with an update from the Governor, Reference ‘wistv.com/2022/02/01/law’&@Mary Green News as well as @4SCVETS for details excerpts are quoted below:-
• By way of South Carolina’s several military installations — plus Fort Gordon, right across the border in Georgia — countless service members have called the Palmetto State home at some point during their years in uniform.
• This week, state lawmakers will take up a pair of bills they hope would keep more veterans in South Carolina once they retire by reducing the taxes they pay on military retirement benefits.
• In South Carolina, veterans currently receive a partial tax exemption on their military benefits, which they receive if they have served at least 20 years. But 35 other states, including North Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida have passed full exemptions, while Georgia, another partial-exemption state, is currently considering moving to a full exemption as well.
• “Why can’t we just take this last, little step, get them that little bit of the cashback for them and their families, and so as they start to pursue their second job, they have that?” South Carolina Department of Veterans’(SCDVA) Affairs Secretary Will Grimsley said. “It’s a little bit of discretionary income that we know they’re going to put back in the South Carolina economy.”
• Members of a House Ways and Means subcommittee considered two bills during a meeting Thursday, H.4880 and H.3247, the Workforce Enhancement & Military Recognition Act.
• Under H.3247 — sponsored by Ways and Means Committee Chair Murrell Smith, people younger than 65 would have their military retirement deduction capped at the amount they make in their current job in South Carolina. For example, if someone makes $50,000 in military retirement and $40,000 in their current job, they can only exempt $40,000 of retirement pay. For those 65 and older, all military retirement income would be tax-deductible.
• Under this proposal, there would be a gradual increase in deductions to the maximum amount over a five-year period.
• According to a fiscal impact report, this increase in deductions would take about $13 million out of the state’s tax revenue each year once it is fully in effect. Leaders with the SCDVA contend the money lost from tax revenue would be recouped within years as a result of the military retirees who would benefit from the cut.“[They would be] back in the workforce, spending in our economy, building it up, investing,” SCDVA Director of Governmental Affairs Candace Terry said.
• The second House bill being discussed Thursday, H.4880, would make all military retirement income tax-deductible, regardless of age, and would fully go into effect after 2021 taxes.
• That exemption is part of a larger bill — sponsored by House Majority Leader Gary Simrill, Speaker of the House Jay Lucas, the amongst others and this would also cut the overall state income tax by 1%, from 7% to 6%.There has not yet been a fiscal impact study published for H.4880.
“When a person is getting ready to separate from the military — I call it ‘progressing’ into the civilian community — and when we progress into the civilian community, that’s one of the first things that’s taken into account is, what is going to be the economic impact on my family or myself?” Retired Command Sergeant Major Lamont Christian said.
After serving more than 30 years in the U.S. Army, Christian, a native New Yorker, decided to start the next part of his life in South Carolina. He finished his military career at Fort Jackson, and factors including the state’s culture, climate, and proximity to beaches, mountains, and other cities kept him in the area .He now serves as the director of the Warrior PATHH (Progressive and Alternative Training for Helping Heroes) program at the Big Red Barn Retreat in Blythewood, leading seven-day residential programs each month for veterans. Justifying tax exemption he is reported to have said:-
“Someone like me, after serving, whether it’s 20 years or 30 years as a non-commissioned officer, it would give me the opportunity to be able to use that additional income that normally would be taxed to invest,” Christian said. “Sometimes those investments could be something as simple as a veteran entrepreneur opportunity or maybe even my own children, pursuing some form of education or business of their own.”
While South Carolina is considered a top destination for veterans, the number of military retirees under the age of 65 in the state was seen to be decreasing, according to the SCDVA. Not having reached the retirement age for working, they are likely to take a new job and contribute to the workforce of the state where they decide to retire from their military careers, at a time when the entire nation, including South Carolina, is grappling with worker shortages.
Grimsley further gave the example of a person who joined the Army at 18 and retired 20 years later. “They’re 38 years old if they served 20 years,” he said. “Now, they’re going to go back into the workforce with 30-plus years of employability, very active, capable employability. That’s a fit, motivated, disciplined, well-trained, well-educated leader.”
Gov. Henry McMaster has placed military tax exemptions among his priorities each legislative session for the last several years, including this year and in a tweet after signing the legislation he announced the exemption for all veterans in the state. Veterans in South Carolina will no longer pay state any income tax on Military Retirement Income after signing into law the bill to eliminate these taxes@4SCVETS as Carolina joins 30+ other states with full exemption.
Need for a Government’ Rethink’ on the Attitude Towards the Armed Forces
The recent actions by the Government and MoD in selling defense land, reducing CSD items, denying OROP, NFFU, taxing Disability Pension in many cases and now the Tour of Duty needs to be seen from the point of view of ‘Motivation’ and ‘Morale’ of the Services. It may be noted that every other organisation barring the Defense Forces have been given OROP including the Judiciary and most of them also get the benefits of NFFU.
The often stated high costs Pension and Salaries of only the Defense Forces does not take into consideration the ‘freebies’ for votes, pension of CAPFs, CPOs, IAS, Railways amongst others. In addition one needs to look at the number of pensions being drawn by politicians.
In today’s transparent environment all ranks are quite aware of what goes on and this affects their mental well being as well as psyche adversely.
All Veterans in the USA are being exempt from paying income tax on their pensions and are being offered lucrative jobs as part of their re- settlement while in India we tax even the Disability Pension!
It maybe noted that India is in a peculiar situation with the heightened border crisis on the Chinese Border and acts of aggression from both China and Pakistan in a collaborative strategy. While our interests in the ocean too have become the focus of tension. In such a situation the need of the hour is well thought out policies aimed at raising the morale of both serving as well as veterans from the Defense Forces.
Motivation of a soldier and the Armed Forces requires more from the government and society than they seem to understand.
Look at the mess created by the new pension scheme of SPARSH? It is so retrograde and inefficient that a senior General of an Army Commander status has gone on to coin an acronym such as SPARSHED to mean being denied pensions by SPARSH!
All said should the Government fail to review such policies and a change of heart it is likely to result in the sad end of a glorious organisation.