Reforms in the pipeline
In an exclusive interview to Millennium Post, Lt Gen DB Shekatkar, Chairman, Reforms Committee, speaks to Sanjay Gupta.
Lieutenant General DB Shekatkar (retired) served in Indian Army for nearly four decades. He participated in India-Pakistan war in 1965, served in operation Blue Star, was in charge of entire China front in Arunachal Pradesh during Kargil war in 1999, and besides controlling communal violence in different areas, he also earned PhD in management sciences and authored books and articles on defence matters. The Union Ministry of Defence (MoD) has appointed him as Chairman, Reforms Committee – the body which gave its report for bringing in a host of reforms in Indian defence services as well improving financial management.
Tell us about the purpose of forming the 'reforms committee', also known as 'Shekatkar committee'.
Post Independence, the reforms committee formed by the MoD is first of its kind in the country. Although, earlier too, committees were formed like the Kargil committee to study the Kargil war, Rama Rao committee, Naresh Chandra and others with the aim to study the reaction of events which took place at that point of time. As, I am appointed Chairman, reforms committee, the aim and main emphasis is to study the 'strategic vision' for India in the near future. The decision for the formation of the committee was taken by then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, which included eleven members drawn from all the three wings of Indian defence forces, officers who served at the AHQ (army headquarters) and a financial expert.
Please highlight some of the key recommendations of your committee.
Initially, the committee formulated 188 recommendations to improve the combat effectiveness, combat potential of the armed forces and total national war endurance. In all, the 65 recommendations have been approved by the MoD, principally to enhance combat capabilities for redeployment of around 57,000 officers and other ranks, too. These recommendations pertain to defence arms, the re-structure of MoD, the DRDO (Defence Research and Development Organisation, NCC, Director- General of Quality Assurance and Ordnance Factory Board (OFB). Also, to establish the joint-services war college, rationalising manpower under 'tooth to tail' ratio policy and reducing the deployment of active-duty soldiers in needless postings. The implication of these recommendations may save the government, over the next few years, up to Rs 25, 000 crore from the present defence expenditure.
Could you elaborate 'tooth to tail' ratio?
In defence services parlance, the teeth-to-tail ratio refers to the amount of supply and support personnel (tail) for each combat soldier (tooth). The existing system of deploying manpower has to be restructured, moreover, due to technological advancements in the 21st century, people supporting people have to be cut down and reduced. The defence forces have to be battle worthy in the on-going digital age.
Any recommendation to close-down some of the army establishments?
The reforms committee recommended the closure of military farms and army postal establishments in peace locations. Also, recommended the optimisation of signals establishments besides few changes in base workshops functioning. The army by the panel's report recommendation may also go away with the superfluous assets.
Union Defence Minister made a quick decision in announcing the recommendations of the reforms committee implementation by December 2019.
I have not seen such a fast decision in India for implementation of the reforms committee and it is also imperative that the recommendations are implemented in a single-go and not in the piece-meal. Once these far-reaching reforms are implemented, a major impact will be visible at ground, primarily in the combat capacity, combat capability, and combat endurance in the defence forces.
What is your take on the implementation of recommendations time frame by the government?
Defence Minister announced the recommendations and implementation of the reforms committee but I have a word of caution: the implementation of selective recommendations. If the government pursues selective implementation, then the same shall suit the various interested segments of the defence forces, and to guard their own turfs and empires can have dangerous implications for future of the country. Based on the attitude of the certain organisations paid out of the defence budget, the reforms committee apprehends that there will be an effort to stall the overall implementation of recommendations, and, if done so, it shall be detrimental to interests of the country.