In one of the biggest reforms of the Indian Army post independence, over 57,000 of its personnel will be redeployed in a bid to increase the "tooth to tail" ratio of the force, the government said on Wednesday.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who also holds the Defence portfolio, announced that the first batch 65 measures out of 99 in the report of a committee led by Lt Gen D.B. Shekatkar (retired) will be implemented by the end of 2019. The decision was taken by the Defence Ministry on Tuesday, and Cabinet was informed on Wednesday.
The Minister said implementation of these "far reaching" recommendations will start immediately.
This will include restructuring of systems continuing since the British times, like reorganising Signals and Engineering corps and Ordnance units, merger of some units and shutting of all military farms, as well as postal establishments in peace areas.
"Mandate of this committee was to make recommendations for enhancing combat capability and re-balancing of defence expenditure of the armed forces... to increase the teeth to tail ratio," he said.
Tooth to tail ratio is a military term that refers to the amount of military personnel it takes to supply and support (tail) each combat soldier (tooth).
"The net effect of this is, as to various different functions in the army, as per the changed environment, how is it to be best utilised. And there are several far-reaching recommendations, for example do we need the military farms at all? Do we with today's technology need a separate postal department? With regard to technology, how the different signals establishments, how their functioning is to be carried on..." Jaitley said.
"This will lead to redeployment of 57,000 officers, JCOs and ORs for various other functions where their requirement in Army is," he said.
Jaitley said the move had nothing to with border related incidents with China, in reference to the over 70-day standoff between Indian and Chinese troops in Doklam that ended on Monday and another scuffle between the troops in Ladakh on August 15.
"Given the sensitivity of the issue involved, it is not appropriate for me to comment. The External Affairs Ministry has already made a detailed statement and that is the government's official position," Jaitley said.
The reforms will lead to shutting down of 39 military farms across the country, some of which have already been shut, and the land will be returned to the Defence Estate Office which will then reallocate land to Army units as per existing sanctions and sizes, said sources.
The reforms will include 'optimisation' of signals establishments to include Radio Monitoring Companies, Corps Air Support Signal Regiments, Air Formation Signal Regiments, Composite Signal Regiments and merger of Corps Operating and Engineering Signal Regiments.
Sources said the restructuring of Signals unit will depend on requirements of the operations.
Repair echelons in the Army will include base workshops, advance base workshops and static or station workshops in the field Army.
The ranks in Ordnance will now include vehicle depots, ordnance depots and central ordnance depots apart from streamlining inventory control mechanisms. Reforms also include better utilisation of supply and transport echelons and animal transport units.
Sources said at peace stations, transport work will be outsourced to civilian operators, while at forward locations, Army will continue to do it.
Heavy military vehicles will continue to be with the repair depot.
There would also be enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army, and improvement in "efficiency" of the National Cadet Corps, as per a government statement.
The Union Government had set up the committee under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen. Shekatkar (retd) to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces on May 20, 2016 and it submitted its final report in December 2016.
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