New Delhi: Congress MP Sachin Pilot Thursday became the first serving union minister to be commissioned as a regular officer in the Territorial Army, and stressed that it will not come in the way of his official duties.
In a ceremony in South Block here, army chief Gen. Bikram Singh and Pilot's mother Rama pipped the rank of lieutenant, formally commissioning him as an officer in the 124 TA Battalion of the Sikh Regiment.
"I am honoured to be a part of this family," a beaming Pilot, the minister of state for communications and IT, said.
For the 35-year-old Pilot, an MP from Ajmer in Rajasthan, it was a dream come true and part of his mission of continuing his family's links with the armed forces. His father, Squadron Leader Rajesh Pilot, a former cabinet minister, was a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF) and his grandfather served in the army as a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO).
"This has been my desire to join the army for very long as I wanted to have my links with the armed forces like my father and grandfather," Pilot said.
As a regular TA officer, sources in the army said Pilot would be required to do a month-long basic military training course, a three-month in-house basic military training course at Deolali in Maharashtra and another three months of training at the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. He will be part of what is called "urban concept battallion," which would require him to attend a military camp for 14 days and do another 22 days of parades of four hours in a year. He will get a salary and accompanying benefits for 36 days each year.
Pilot made it clear that this will not be construed as an office of profit. "The clause of office-of-profit in the Indian constitution, in that, the Territorial Army is an exception."
"I had considered all these legal aspects before joining the TA," he said.
"Absolutely. I would always be there to serve the country," he replied when asked if he would be ready to serve in the armed forces in times of conflict as the TA commission required him to do.
Pilot also made it clear that he would perform all his assigned duties in the unit and all his duties as a junior minister.
When asked whether his joining the TA would help improve the image of politics and politicians, he said: "I think if educated and young people join any field including politics, this would help."
"In the last few years, youths are joining politics at state and panchayat level and I feel this would help in bringing about a positive change in the country," Pilot said.
Pilot's tryst with the TA started around two years ago during an orientation programme organised by the defence ministry for young parliamentarians.
K.P. Singh Deo, who had served as minsiter of state for defence in the 1980s, had retired as a brigadier. He had, however, enrolled before becoming a minister.