Biggest reform ever: Why the Indian Army will be leaner and meaner

Indian Army will be leaner and meaner
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The approving of the first phase of reforms relating to the Indian Army based on the recommendations of the Lt General Shekatkar committee has been hailed as the best since India got independence. The long and short of these recommendations coming into force would mean India will have a leaner and meaner Army.

The purpose of reforms is to enhance combat capability and also optimize and rebalance defence expenditure of Indian Army in phased manner by December 2019. It is first ever reform exercise to be undertaken in Indian Army since independence.

The first phase of reforms involves:

  • Redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers/Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs)/ Other Ranks (ORs) and civilians.
  • Optimisation of signals establishments: Its purpose is to include Radio Monitoring Companies, Air Formation Signal Regiments, Corps Air Support Signal Regiments, Composite Signal Regiments and merger of Corps Operating and Engineering Signal Regiments.
  • Restructuring of repair echelons in Army: Its purpose is to include Base Workshops, Advance Base Workshops and Station Workshops in the field Army.
  • Redeployment of Ordnance echelons: Its purpose is to include Vehicle Depots, Central Ordnance Depots and Ordnance Depots apart from streamlining inventory control mechanisms.
  • Other Reforms: Better utilization of Supply and Transport echelons and Animal Transport units. Closure of army postal establishments and military farms in peace locations. Enhancement of standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in Army. Improving efficiency of National Cadet Corps (NCC).

Why the reforms:

The Union Ministry of Defence had constituted a Committee of Experts under Chairmanship of Lt Gen (Retd) DB Shekatkar for recommending measures to enhance combat capability and rebalancing defence expenditure of Armed Forces with an aim to increase “teeth to tail ratio”.

The committee had submitted around 99 recommendations. So far, Defence Ministry has approved 65 of these recommendations pertaining to Indian Army for implementation. Remaining 34 recommendations pertaining to Indian Navy, Air Force and Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) are likely to be taken up soon. These reforms will be completed in all respects by December 2019.

The committee had suggested that, if these recommendations are implemented over the next five years, it can result in savings of up to Rs. 25,000 crore in defence expenditure.

Shekatkar’s recommendations:

The panel had suggested 99 recommendations for structural changes in the Army and out of which the defence ministry has accepted 65 after consultations with all the stakeholders, Jaitley said. The defence ministry said the reforms will be carried out by December 31, 2019.

The Defence Ministry said civilians will be redeployed in different wings of the armed forces for improving efficiency. The Shekatkar committee was appointed in May last year and it had submitted its report in December. The ministry said there will be redeployment of ordnance echelons to include vehicle depots, ordnance depots and central ordnance depots apart from streamlining inventory control mechanisms.

The reform will also be carried out to ensure better utilisation of supply and transport facilities and animal transport units. There will be enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army as also improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps.

“Implementation has begun with the decision of the Cabinet Committee on Security to close 39 military farms in a time bound manner,” the ministry said.The army’s commanders’ in April had deliberated extensively on enhancing the Army’s overall strike capability.

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