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In India’s first army overhaul, 57,000 soldiers to be redeployed in combat roles

The Indian army has around 40,525 officers and 1.15 million other ranks. The defence ministry dubbed the overhaul the first such exercise in Independent India.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2017 20:27 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Indian Army,Indian Army combat roles,Combat role
Indian Army vehicles travel in formation during the Republic Day parade on Rajpath in New Delhi.(AP File Photo)

India on Wednesday announced an extensive restructuring of its army, an exercise that will see 57,000 soldiers being redeployed in combat roles to sharpen the force’s fighting edge.

Announcing the government’s decision to usher in the much-needed reforms, defence minister Arun Jaitley told media after a cabinet meeting the “far-reaching” revamp was aimed at improving army’s tooth-to-tail ratio -- the number of personnel (tail) required to support a combat soldier (tooth).

“Implementation has begun with the decision of the cabinet committee on security to close 39 military farms in a time bound manner,” a defence ministry spokesperson said.

The restructuring would be completed by December 2019. The army has around 40,525 officers and 1.15 million other ranks.

The defence ministry dubbed the overhaul the first such exercise in Independent India’s military history.

The restructuring effort will involve the shutting down of all military farms and army postal units in peace stations and a revamp of different wings including logistics, communications establishments, repair facilities, ordnance depots and other administrative and support areas.

The exercise follows recommendations made by an 11-member expert panel, headed by lieutenant general DB Shekatkar (retd), on enhancing the army’s combat potential and trimming its revenue expenditure.

The committee had listed out measures to bring down the budget for meeting day-to-day expenses and making more money available for weapons and equipment.

The ministry is implementing the first batch of 65 of the 99 Shekatkar panel recommendations approved by the government.

The remaining 34 relate to the air force, navy and some tri-service issues. The suggestions are being implemented nine months after the committee submitted its report.

Asked if the restructuring was being undertaken factoring in the recent Doklam standoff with China, Jaitley said, “This is not specific to any incident. It had been going on much prior to Doklam.”

Indian and Chinese soldiers were locked in a standoff for more than two months in the Doklam plateau that is claimed by both Bhutan and China and border’s Sikkim on the Indian side. The longest border impasse between the two countries in more than two decades ended Monday.

Talking to HT from Pune, Shekatkar hailed the revamp, saying it would boost the army’s “combat potential, capability and endurance”.

“This is perhaps the first time a committee’s recommendations on military restructuring have been implemented,” he said.

The panel made 188 suggestions of which 99 were accepted by the ministry in March. Shekatkar expressed hope that the remaining would also be implemented as “they too were very significant”.

Those recommendations relate to the Military Engineer Services, Defence Research and Development Organisation, Directorate General of Quality Assurance, Directorate General of Defence Estates, the Ordnance Factory Board and defence accounts. Shekatkar said a large chunk of money was being spent on these organisations.

The restructuring would be done in a manner that soldiers “will be used for improving operational preparedness and civilians will be redeployed in different wings of the armed forces for improving efficiency”, the defence spokesperson said.

First Published: Aug 30, 2017 20:02 IST