Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said perhaps for the first time after Independence, such a big and “far-reaching” reform process is being initiated in the Army.
Replying to a question on whether the exercise was undertaken keeping in view the Dokalam episode, Mr Jaitley said, “This is not specific to any incident. It had been going on much prior to Dokalam.”
The reform initiatives were prescribed by a committee headed by Lt Gen DB Shekatkar (retd) which had a mandate to recommend measures for enhancing of combat capability and rebalancing defence expenditure of the armed forces to increase “teeth to tail ratio”.
The ‘tooth-to-tail’ ratio refers to the amount of supply and support personnel (termed as tail) for each combat soldier (tooth).
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, Mr Jaitley said.
He said operationalisation of the reforms begins “now” while the defence ministry stated that the process will be completed by December 31, 2019.
The Army has a total strength of around 12 lakh personnel and is one of leading ground force globally.
“The net effect of this is, as to various, different functions in the Army, as per the changed environment of technology, economy, combat capability of the Army, how it is to be best utilised,” Mr Jaitley told reporters.
In a statement, the ministry said civilians will be redeployed in different wings of the armed forces for improving efficiency.
Army sources said around 31,000 civilian staff will be redeployed including in new formations, adding reform will be carried out in the Army’s education corp as well.
Mr Jaitley said the Union Cabinet was today apprised of the defence ministry’s decision to carry out the reform process in the Army.
The Shekatkar committee was appointed in May last year and it had submitted its report in December.
“In a first ever exercise after Independence, the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the Indian Army has decided to reform the Indian Army in a planned manner. These decisions were approved by the Defence Minister,” the ministry said in a statement.
In the first phase, it said the reforms will involve redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers, junior commissioned officers and other ranks and civilians.
It said optimisation of signals establishments, closure of military farms and army postal establishments in peace locations as well as restructuring of repair echelons in the army including base workshops will also be part of the extensive exercise.
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 steps will be taken to improve 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 force’s overall strike capability.
“Restructuring by the Indian Army is aimed at enhancing combat capability in a manner that the officers/JCOs/ORs will be used for improving operational preparedness and civilians will be redeployed in different wings of the armed forces for improving efficiency,” said the defence ministry.
It said optimisation of signals establishments will 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.