The government may introduce a module of compulsory military training at the college level on a pilot basis in some districts of the country, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar indicated in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.
He was replying to a private members’ Bill moved by BJP’s Avinash Rai Khanna on compulsory military training. The Bill was voted out — Khanna was not present in the House to withdraw it as Parrikar had requested.
Parrikar said that had he been sitting anywhere in the House except on the treasury benches, he would have been a votary of the idea. But there are logistical constraints that he has to take into account as part of the government, including the feasibility of training eight crore young people.
“What I consider, as a much reasonable one (idea) is to introduce compulsory training for a certain number of hours for completing graduation. It can be introduced as a class, may be of an hour or so. Or, it can be introduced as a completely separate course to be taken by a student during his college tenure. He can take it in the first year or in the second year,” Parrikar said.
“With the help of the members who have shown deep interest in the subject, I would have a discussion as to how to go about the issue. If we can work out something, if we can start it on a trial basis, let us do it in some districts where there is more enthusiasm.”
Recounting the compulsory NCC course that he had to complete during his stint in IIT to get his degree, Parrikar said the government could consider a 50-60 hour course of defence training at the graduation level. “It need not be on a weekly basis. One can take it as a course; like the way we take History, Maths, etc., we can take one course of defence training in districts which face the border,” he said.
The Bill found support cutting across political lines with SP’s Ramgopal Yadav saying that military training for all is important because “wars are not won in battlefields but in playgrounds”. Parrikar conceded that it is an “excellent idea” but the resources required for enforcement of such a legislation are enormous.
He, however, disagreed with the proposal in the Bill for compulsory training between the ages of 14 and 50 as physical fitness may be an issue at 50. He added that even if 50 per cent of the 16 crore people aged between 17-18 and 25 are fit for military training and have to be provided a training of one year as provided for in the Bill, it would require an annual expenditure of Rs 60,000 crore. Even if that money is arranged making small cuts in allocations of other schemes, the entire Army, he said, would be required to train them.