For all working days of the week, Mandeep Sandhu is an IT entrepreneur. Over the weekend he is a decorated major of the Army. He dons the uniform and heads to his unit, 124 Infantry Battalion, Sikh, of the Territorial Army (TA). Three years ago, he even shot down two militants in Rajouri and bagged a commendation from the Army Chief.
Maj Sandhu is not a character out of fiction. He lives and works in New Delhi. All he has to do as a commissioned officer is train with his TA unit for eight hours every weekend to retain his rank of Major. At the time of war or similar situations, the TA officers and men are called in for active duty and become regular army officers drawing the same perks and emoluments as the others. Maj Sandhu’s unit is one of the few urban units – in which city dwellers following different vocations have to simply train for 46 days in a year on the weekends.
He retains the ranks and enjoys the privileges of being an officer, while the exchequer has to pay him only for the period he works as a regular officer. And, there are thousands like him – from the likes of Barmer Member of Parliament Manvendra Singh and film actor turned industrialist Vishal Bakshi – who don the uniform. “Anyone between the age group of 18 and 42, who clears the Services Selection Board test and the medical examination can join the TA,” said Maj Gen VK Datta, Additional Director General.