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In an interview with Karan Thapar, former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff Lt. Gen Raj Kadyan gives four reasons why the tour of duty concept would work against the army’s interests.

A former Deputy Chief of the Army Staff, Lt. Gen Raj Kadyan, has sharply criticised the idea of inducting 100 officers and around 1,000 jawans into the army on a limited three-year tour of duty. The idea has been widely reported by the media as a way of reducing the army’s sharply increasing expenditure on pay and pensions. As the military faces the prospect of deep budget cuts as a result of the post-coronavirus resource crunch, the tour of duty concept has been proposed as a way of reducing expenditure on pay and pensions – possibly by as much as Rs 11,500 crore a year.

In a 24-minute interview to Karan Thapar for The Wire, Lt. Gen Kadyan gave four reasons why the tour of duty concept would work against the army’s interests.

First, he said, a tour of duty officer, who serves for only three years, is unlikely to be given more than 3-6 months pre-commission training. This is considerably less than the three-and-a-half year training given to an officer who goes through the National Defence Academy or the one-and-a-half year training given to an officer who goes directly to the Indian Military Academy.

On top of this, the tour of duty officer will not get any post-commission training whilst normal officers usually spend six months, if not more, on such training courses. Consequently, tour of duty officers are “likely to end up at best as semi-trained leaders”. They will not be anywhere near the level of a normal officer.

Second, because of this difference, jawans are unlikely to respect a tour of duty officer the same way they do a normal officer. Their faith and confidence in him and his judgement at times of crisis will be a lot less.

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Third, because he’s only in the army for three years, a tour of duty officer will consider himself “in transit” and he will be more concerned about what happens after three years than about his role in the army. In other words, his attitude and commitment will not be the same as that of a normal officer.

Fourth, for all the above reasons, the impact of the tour of duty concept on the army will be adverse. “The army will end up being the loser and have its professional capabilities eroded,” he said.

Lt Gen Kadyan, who is also a former chairman of the Indian Ex-Servicemen’s Movement, told The Wire that “more than 95%” retired officers are critical of the idea.

In the interview, Lt Gen Kadyan accepted that officers who complete the three year tour of duty would be a great asset to the corporate world – as Anand Mahindra has separately confirmed – but this would happen at the cost of the army.

“The army will willy-nilly become a supplier of recruits for the private sector,” he said.

Lt. Gen Kadyan refuted calculations printed in some sections of the media which suggest that by adopting the tour of duty scheme the army could save up to Rs 11,500 crore in pay and pensions. He said this was based on a mistaken calculation of the cost differential between a tour of duty officer and a normal officer.

He also said the reason why the army’s pension bill was rising disproportionately – it has ballooned 146% in the last five years – is because pensions are linked to pay, which automatically increases as costs go up, and because people are living longer. The same is true of the pension bill for the civil services.

Lt. Gen Kadyan said a better way of reducing the army’s pay and pension bill is to amend the existing short service commission scheme by reducing its tenure from 10 and 14 years to five years.