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Territorial Army (TA)

The Territorial Army (TA) is a localily recruited organisation which acts as a second line of defence, a standing army volunteer reserve. In peace time, a "Territorial" usually trains at weekends.But in the event of war or in an emergency, the part-time soldier is very much the whole-time soldier.

After the 1962 war, when a large number of TA units were converted into regular army units a with the proliferation of para-military forces, the concept of part-time soldiering has not only been neglected but, if one may say, lost. Also, the strength of the TA remained as low as 40,000 for more than four decades. In view of this situation, it is worth taking a fresh look at the concept of part-time soldiering.

Most countries have been giving serious thought to reducing expenditure on the second large standing armies, which are uneconomical during peace. The need felt immediately after World War was that a country should have a well-equipped, highly mobile regular army, backed up by a volunteer citizens' force which can be mobilised at short notice.

In India, time and again attention has been drawn to the exorbitant cost of manpower in the defence services. Today, fifty per cent of the defence budget is accounted for personnel-related costs. Pensions account for another twelve per cent, anticipated to reach twentyfour per cent in the coming years. Will India be able to afford it?

Most countries have some sort of national service. This has also been proposed in India, even though TA was designed to fulfill this very role. A "Territorial" costs the exchequer much less than a regular serviceman. Further, with diverse employment opportunities and higher educational standards, today's youth is reluctant to take up a full-time career in military. Territorial Army is in a position to fulfill the anticipated manpower shortage, particularly in the officer cadre. The TA can tackle various contingencies.

Though primarily meant for those engaged in a civil vocation, it can also absorb unemployed in special circumstances. The focal point is voluntary enroloment through departmental units. A new entrant in the Railways has to give an undertaking that he will be available to serve for seven to twelve years. The non-departmental units are the infantry battalions for which personnel between the ages of 18 and 42 years can volunteer. These cater for urban and rural requirments. The urban units are trained during weekends throughout the year, the rural are trained for two months in a year.

All TA units have a nucleus staff from the regular Army. So they have an Army culture which enables them to fit in smoothly in the Army formatioons whenever need arises. Except for the Railways and the Ecological units, all units are commanded by the regular officers. TA non-departmental units are available as immediate reserves to replace or support regular units. Retired Army personnel can also join TA, ifthey are within the age limit. This can be extended if necessary. The scope in the non-departmental units can be widened so that, in addition to the infantry, all types of combat units like armour, artillery and signals can be raised to relieve the regular units in an emergency.

The main reason for not expanding combat TA units is the concern that international borders must be gaurded at al times; that military formations must be readily available on push-button basis to deal with the enemy; that TA will not be able to get mobilised in time and that sufficient volunteers are not forthcoming. But in the age of satellite reconnaissance and electronic gadgets, the days of the second World War type of surprise attacks are over. TA units may be mobilised as soon as the clouds of war are imminent. TA units must be employed within or just outside their states because a TA unit from West Bengal or Orissa will not get mobilised quickly if it is to be send to Srinagar or Ludhiana. TA units should not be kept embodied for long periods for their employers may not be able to spare them unless there is an emergency. This way we can avoid delays in the mobilisation of TA units.

As regards inadequate volunteers,bureaucrats, politicians and eminent citizens should set an example by jointing Territorial Army. On the other hand, Army should experiment by involving TA units in its brigades and divisions for operational tasks at front-line. It is believed that the TA battalions sent with the IPKF to Sri, Lanka acquitted themselves with credit.

The primary purpose of such forces all over the world is to support the regular forces. Themethods of doing so, however, vary. Australia utilises its TA personnel as UN Observers for assisting civilian authorities and even fill vacancies in the regular forces. The American National Guard comes under the respective State Governors who can call on them for preserving law and order, protecting and promoting general welfare and public health.In an emergency, the US President can order such units to move out on duty under Federal Orders without consulting the Governors. American National Guard units participated in the Korean War to supplement the regulars and, more recently, in the first Gulf War in 1990. These are now engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Britain, the first TA unit is believed to have been raised in 1537 and the force's strength expanded to nearly two lakh during the second World War II. Israel's defences are, of course, another story. Their reserves must get mobilised within 24-48 hours.

India considers the utilisation of TA in four distinct areas. Support to regular army in frontline tasks,tasks in the rear areas on the second line, specific purposes like protection of airfields and security installations and ecological resforation. The Governors of states should be emplowered to mobilise TA units located in their states in situaions of deteriorating law and order. This way, each state's involvement in tackling law and order situations will increase.

The organisation of each type of unit would vary. TA units for frontline tasks would need to have the same organisation and weapons as the regular army. Units for secondline tasks could probably do with their present organisation and specialised weapons. It is worth reiterating that the present infrastructure and regulations of TA are sound and, in fact, far ahead of times. With the help of existing Territorial Army Act, the necessary political will and slight modification in regulations, India can atilise TA for an endless number of tasks.

Also known as Citizens' Army, the Territorial Army (TA) is composed of 31 Infantry Battalions and 19 Departmental TA Units such as Railway Engineer Regiments, Oil Sector and Ecological, Signals and General Hospitals Units. The TA which carries out operational tasks, internal security duties and aid to civil authorities in support of the regular Army, has been playing a commendable role. The TA units have also been embodied for the Operation Parakram and deployed with various defence units including protection of essential service and oil and natural gas installations in Gujarat.

Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes underlined the need for expansion of the Territorial Army (TA) in view of its increasing role in assistance to civil administration and maintenance of essential services. He was addressing the meeting of the Consultative Committee attached to his ministry in New Delhi.

The members of this Army have full time civil vocation and are only part-time soldiers, receiving requisite military training for specific duration every year. Such trained manpower rather trained soldiers becomes a standby additional force for military service should the need arise.

The Territorial Army is part of Regular Army and its present role is to relieve the Regular Army from static duties and assist civil administration in dealing with natural calamities and maintenance of essential services in situations where life of the communities is affected or the Security of the Country is threatened and to provide units for Regulars Army as and when required.

By the late 1990s the Territorial Army had a strength of approx. 40000 persons comprising of Departmental TA units such as Railway, IOC, ONGC, Telecommunication and General Hospital and the non Departmental TA units of Infantry Bn (TA) and Ecological Bn (TA) affiliated to various Infantry Regiments.

The Territorial Army constituted under the Territorial Army Act of 1948 is designed to relieve the Regular Army of static duties, to aid the civil power, and to provide units for the regular Army, if and when required. Commissioning and enrolment in it are voluntary. It consists of two types of units - Urban and Provincial. The provincial units are intended mostly for rural population and are embodied for annual training for two months at a stretch.

In the urban units, except the urban Railway and P & T units, training is imparted outside office hours so as not to interfere with the normal civil vocations of TA personnel. The Central and State Government have allowed their personnel belonging to the urban units to draw their military pay and allowances, calculated on the basis of each day of training received, in addition to their civil emoluments for the period of training. For purposes of pay and allowances, four hours training is reckoned as one day. Railway and P&T urban units receive 30 days training at one stretch every year.

The period of training laid down per annum for the personnel of the urban units is not less than 36 days and not more than 60 days including an annual camp of 14 days duration. The pay, allowances and other concessions admissible to the TA personnel during periods of training / service in the Territorial Army are more or less the same as for the corresponding Regular Army personnel.

The idea of raising and now maintaining the Territorial Army is not new to India. The history of the territorials can be traced back to 1857 when the members of the force were called volunteers. It was during the first war of Independence in 1857 that the British administrative machinery crumbled down at many places in the country. The native soldiers of the British Army and the police openly revolted at quite a few places. To quell them, a volunteer force of British civilians living in India was raised.

In 1869, the Indian Railway started organising infantry battalions for their use. The East India Railway Volunteers Rifle Corps was the first to be organised. The main function of these units was to take care of internal security. The Madras Volunteers Artillery was formed by 1879.

After World War I, in response to political demands, two separate, territorial organisations were created, namely the Auxiliary Force (India), popularly known as AFI for Europeans and Anglo Indians and the Indian Territorial Force comprising Indians.

In 1920, the Indian Territorial force Act was passed and initially seven provincial units were raised. The personnel of provincial units were enrolled for a period of six years. By 1935 the Indian Territorial Force consisted of 16,000 personnel and comprised 18 provincial battalions.

With the attainment of Independence in 1947, everyone felt that the defence of the country was of paramount importance. Country had two choices to choose from-first, to have a huge static army capable of meeting the entire defence need and second, to have a modern standing army and supplement it with reservists who could be called up for service during an emergency. The second choice was favoured which, in turn, entailed much larger Territorial Army better trained and fighting fit than the erstwhile Indian Territorial Force. Thus came into being the Territorial Army Act on August 18, 1948.

The TA units were actively involved in 1962, 1965 and 1971 operations. The "Terriers" have also taken part in OP-PAWAN in Srilanka, OP RAKSHAK in Punjab & J&K, OP RHINO and OP BAJRANG in North East in a most active manner. Departmental units came to the aid of the civil authorities during Industrial unrest and natural calamities, most famous being earthquake in Latoor (Maharastra), Uttarkashi in Garhwal Himalaya and the Super Cyclone in Orissa. The Ecological units have arrested man made environmental degradation by planting 2.5 crore trees over 20,000 hectare of land in Mussoori Hills & Pithoragarh (UP), Bikaner & Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) and ravines of Chambal in Madhya Pradesh.

Over the years, the Territorial Army has rendered valuable service to the country both in war and peace and its achievements are praiseworthy. The concept of part-time military service has proved an excellent integrating factor in the life of the nation, affording unique opportunities to young people to fulfill their national obligations during the Chinese aggression in 1962 and Indo-Pak conflicts of 1965 and 1971. It has also stood the test whenever its personnel have been called upon by civil administration to render a helping hand during natural clamities or social unrest. Hence the Territorial Army in the other words is the most economical force with citizens involvement in national defence security. It is indeed the Citizen Army representing the civilians will to supplement the regular army in the time of external aggression or natural calamities.

The Defence Minister, Mr George Fernandes, has said that the report of the KP Singh Deo Committee on TA and the recommendations of the Group of Ministers (GoM) have to be considered and implemented. This would make the TA a visible platform for disciplined and trained citizens from all walks of life to support the regular Army, he added. The strength of the TA has been recommended to be 80,000-100,000 by the year 2007 by the KP Singh Deo Committee. The present authorised strength is 40,085.

Mr Fernandes informed the members that the Government has also accepted the provision of 20 per cent reserve of TA officers to remove the deficiency of Company Commanders in Infantry Battalions (TA). Mr Fernandes accepted the suggestions made by some members of Parliament to include women in non-departmental as well as departmental units of TA, initially in the officers rank and, later, in the lower ranks. At present, women are serving only in the General Hospital and Signal Regiments of the TA. He said that the suggestion of compulsory inclusion of government employees in the TA should be explored and the private sector should also be involved, keeping in view the terrorist activities and danger to strategic enterprises. Mr Fernandes suggested that the TA and ex-servicemen could also play a major role in the proposed 'Trans-Himalayan Development Authority'.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:44:11 ZULU