By; Lt. Col Rajinder Singh Shekhawat
BHADRAVATI: In the eventuality of external threat no country in the world, however affluent, can afford the upkeep of a huge standing army for meeting contingencies. Support or the backup, direct and indirect, from the civilian population is a must. Quantum and form may vary but the standing army always needs a complementary or additional force. It is, therefore, usual to have as its part of defense setup a voluntary and part-time force. Since time immemorial such citizen voluntary forces have played a vital role in the defense of the nation. Such an organization in India is called the Territorial Army.
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 idea of raising and now maintaining the Territorial Army is not new to India. The history of the territorial’s 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 organizing infantry battalions for their use. The East India Railway Volunteers Rifle Corps was the first to be organized. 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 organizations 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.
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.