Recently, it was reported that the Army might allow young citizens who want to experience Army life — for a short period, not as a career — to join the force for three years as part of a model ‘Tour of Duty’. The Army would benefit by getting young manpower and the young recruits would have the chance to imbibe the Army’s ethos of discipline and dedication. This was refreshing news in these gloomy times, and kindled my interest and memories.
I visited South Korea in 1988. I was in a metered taxi in Seoul. In the middle of the journey, the driver stopped and demanded double the fare, otherwise he wouldn’t move. I had to pay. Another day, walking, I lost the way to my hotel. I asked a policeman for help; no help until I greased his palm. Such was the rampant corruption in Korea, but when I went there again in 2015, I was amazed how things had changed. I was in a taxi and by mistake, the driver took a wrong route. Realising this, he stopped the meter, found the right route to my hotel and refused to accept any fare. The police and young people in particular were extremely polite and helpful. I asked my Korean friends what caused the change. I learnt that much of it was due to the new policy requiring all young men to join the military for two-three years (for women it was optional). This instilled discipline, loyalty and responsibility. No wonder Korea developed fast.
Another example is of Switzerland. The country has not fought war since long, but they have a superbly organised army. Army service is obligatory for young men for about two years, with short refresher courses later (for which their employers continue to pay salary). Interestingly, most Swiss find it useful for their self-development. A Swiss business associate told me that many of the friends he made during army service were top corporate leaders and professionals today.
A survey has indicated that out of the participating countries, 56 require mandatory military service in some form, while 109 have no conscription rules. In India, opinions drawn from corporate leaders show that they would prefer employing individuals who have had some military experience. By opting for the ‘Tour of Duty’, young people will become more employable, besides experiencing the adventure of the Army and the unique pride of the uniform.
The internship can also be extended to all who have passed class XII. It should be a paid internship. Besides training in physical fitness, survival techniques, self-defence and introduction to firearms, some manual vocational skills should be taught. It can be dove-tailed into the Skill India campaign.
The interns will imbibe attention to detail and the importance of achieving goals. The Army also symbolises ‘unity in diversity’. I heard a TEDx talk by Capt Raghu Raman in which he spoke of how in the Army he learned to drink and wash and shave with colleagues from a common mug, no matter what their religion or caste. These are priceless life lessons.
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