The news that the Defence Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley has given the green signal to the recommendations made by the Committee of Experts set up by the previous Defence Minister, Shri Manohar Parrikar is indeed heart warming. Considering that most committee reports continue to gather dust, years after they were submitted to the government, the approval given by the Defence Minister to the reforms process in such a short time is path breaking.

The Committee of Experts was constituted by the Ministry of Defence under the chairmanship of Lt. Gen. DB Shekatkar (Retd) on May 11, 2016 to recommend measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces. It submitted its report to the then Defence Minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar on December 21, 2016. Thereafter, an internal committee was constituted within the Defence Ministry to analyse the recommendations made by the Shekatkar panel, to identify the recommendations to be accepted and to frame the key action points as well as a roadmap for their implementation.

The Shekatkar Committee was mandated to:
􀁷􀀂 􀀶􀁉􀁚􀁍􀁉􀁛􀀂 􀁘􀁖􀁅􀁍􀁒􀁍􀁒􀁋􀀏􀀂 􀁅􀁈􀁑􀁍􀁒􀁍􀁗􀁘􀁖􀁅􀁘􀁍􀁚􀁉􀀂 􀁅􀁒􀁈􀀂 􀁐􀁓􀁋􀁍􀁗􀁘􀁍􀁇􀁗􀀂 establishments vis-à-vis what is described as “best practices under Indian conditions”, the purpose being to optimise manpower in the defence forces and increase ‘teeth to tail’ ratio.
and increase ‘teeth to tail’ ratio. 􀀂 􀁷􀀂 􀀷􀁙􀁋􀁋􀁉􀁗􀁘􀀂 􀁬􀁖􀁉􀁈􀁉􀁔􀁐􀁓􀁝􀁑􀁉􀁒􀁘􀀏􀀂 􀁖􀁉􀁔􀁓􀁗􀁍􀁘􀁍􀁓􀁒􀁍􀁒􀁋􀀂 􀁅􀁒􀁈􀀂 restructuring of manpower and resources” to improve combat capability.
􀁷􀀂 􀀷􀁙􀁋􀁋􀁉􀁗􀁘􀀂 􀁍􀁒􀁘􀁉􀁋􀁖􀁅􀁘􀁍􀁓􀁒􀀂 􀁓􀁊􀀂 􀁇􀁍􀁚􀁍􀁐􀀂 􀁍􀁒􀁊􀁖􀁅􀁗􀁘􀁖􀁙􀁇􀁘􀁙􀁖􀁉􀀂 􀁅􀁒􀁈􀀂 resources into the logistic system of the defence forces in war and peace to “avoid duplication and reduce expenditure”.
􀁷􀀂 􀀷􀁙􀁋􀁋􀁉􀁗􀁘􀀂 􀁑􀁉􀁅􀁗􀁙􀁖􀁉􀁗􀀂 􀁘􀁓􀀂􀁬􀁇􀁓􀁖􀁖􀁉􀁇􀁘􀀂 􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂 􀁆􀁍􀁅􀁗􀀂 􀁓􀁊􀀂 􀁈􀁉􀁊􀁉􀁒􀁇􀁉􀀂 budget towards revenue expenditure”. In broad terms, the Committee has recommended the following:
􀁷􀀂 􀀂 􀀥􀀂 􀀘􀀐􀁗􀁘􀁅􀁖􀀂 􀁇􀁌􀁍􀁉􀁊􀀂 􀁓􀁊􀀂 􀁈􀁉􀁊􀁉􀁒􀁇􀁉􀀂 􀁗􀁘􀁅􀁊􀁊􀀂 􀀋􀀧􀀨􀀷􀀌􀀂 􀁅􀁗􀀂 􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂 􀁇􀁌􀁍􀁉􀁊􀀂 military adviser to the defence minister. 􀀂􀁷􀀂􀀨􀁉􀁚􀁍􀁗􀁍􀁒􀁋􀀂􀁅􀁒􀀂􀁍􀁒􀁘􀁉􀁋􀁖􀁅􀁘􀁉􀁈􀀂􀁛􀁅􀁖􀀂􀁅􀁔􀁔􀁖􀁓􀁅􀁇􀁌􀀂􀁆􀁝􀀂􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂􀀭􀁒􀁈􀁍􀁅􀁒􀀂 Army, Navy and Air Force.
􀀂 􀁷􀀂 􀀪􀁍􀁒􀁅􀁒􀁇􀁍􀁅􀁐􀀂 􀁑􀁅􀁒􀁅􀁋􀁉􀁑􀁉􀁒􀁘􀀂 􀁖􀁉􀁊􀁓􀁖􀁑􀁗􀀂 􀁅􀁒􀁈􀀂 􀁈􀁓􀁍􀁒􀁋􀀂 􀁅􀁛􀁅􀁝􀀂 with the multi-layered system of according financial clearances (first within the finance division of MoD and then at the finance ministry).
􀀂 􀁷􀀂 􀀩􀁊􀁊􀁉􀁇􀁘􀁍􀁚􀁉􀀂 􀁙􀁘􀁍􀁐􀁍􀁗􀁅􀁘􀁍􀁓􀁒􀀂 􀁓􀁊􀀂 􀁖􀁉􀁗􀁓􀁙􀁖􀁇􀁉􀁗􀀂 􀁅􀁒􀁈􀀂 􀁖􀁓􀁐􀁐􀀂 􀁓􀁒􀀂 􀁓􀁊􀀂unused funds.

The committee has further specifically pointed at re-organising the role of certain organisations like the DRDO, DGQA, Defence Estates, Defence Accounts and the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and has also made recommendations on restructuring of the National Cadet Corps (NCC), suggesting that it be brought under the administrative control of the ministry of human resources rather than the MoD. Optimal use and integration of manpower and resources by re-deploying ex-servicemen including retired officers and JCOs in various organisations (as mentioned above) has also been proposed.

The committee has also recommended higher allocations in the Union Budget for the defence sector and has suggested cutting down the expenditure and closing down certain organisations/PSUs, which it felt was wasteful expenditure.

About 90 recommendations of the Shekatkar Committee stand approved by the MoD, which expects all of them to be implemented within the next two years. That off course has to be seen, considering the poor state of implementation of previous reports. But we have a new and more focussed government in power now, so perhaps the requisite change may indeed be in the offing. The CDS most likely will become a reality within the year and certain other recommendations involving cuts in manpower will also most likely come about. However, the challenges lie in other areas.

􀀂􀁷􀀂􀀻􀁍􀁐􀁐􀀂􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂􀁋􀁓􀁚􀁉􀁖􀁒􀁑􀁉􀁒􀁘􀀂􀁉􀁜􀁌􀁍􀁆􀁍􀁘􀀂􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂􀁛􀁍􀁐􀁐􀀂􀁘􀁓􀀂􀁖􀁉􀁊􀁓􀁖􀁑􀀂􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂 OFB by shedding wasteful organisations?
􀀂􀁷􀀂􀀧􀁅􀁒􀀂􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂􀀨􀀶􀀨􀀳􀀂􀁆􀁉􀀂􀁘􀁖􀁅􀁒􀁗􀁊􀁓􀁖􀁑􀁉􀁈􀀂􀁓􀁒􀀂􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂􀁐􀁍􀁒􀁉􀁗􀀂􀁓􀁊􀀂􀀭􀀷􀀶􀀳􀀂 to deliver high quality products?
􀁷􀀂 􀀧􀁅􀁒􀀂 􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂 􀀱􀁓􀀨􀀂 􀁍􀁘􀁗􀁉􀁐􀁊􀀂 􀁆􀁉􀀂 􀁍􀁒􀁘􀁉􀁋􀁖􀁅􀁘􀁉􀁈􀀏􀀂 􀁘􀁓􀀂 􀁌􀁅􀁚􀁉􀀂 􀁅􀁘􀀂 least fifty percent representation in all posts from the military? All modern democracies have such systems, but the Indian MoD is staffed with civilians with little or nil knowledge of defence matters, yet having total power with no accountability.

􀀂􀁷􀀂􀀧􀁅􀁒􀀂􀁐􀁓􀁋􀁍􀁗􀁘􀁍􀁇􀀂􀁗􀁉􀁖􀁚􀁍􀁇􀁉􀁗􀀂􀁆􀁉􀀂􀁍􀁒􀁘􀁉􀁋􀁖􀁅􀁘􀁉􀁈􀀏􀀂􀁊􀁍􀁖􀁗􀁘􀀂􀁛􀁍􀁘􀁌􀁍􀁒􀀂􀁘􀁌􀁉􀀂 Army, then within the Services and finally within the country?

􀁷􀀂 􀀧􀁅􀁒􀀂 􀁛􀁉􀀂 􀁌􀁅􀁚􀁉􀀂 􀁅􀀂 􀁈􀁉􀁊􀁉􀁒􀁇􀁉􀀂 􀁓􀁊􀁊􀁍􀁇􀁉􀁖􀀂 􀁊􀁙􀁒􀁇􀁘􀁍􀁓􀁒􀁍􀁒􀁋􀀂 􀁅􀁗􀀂 Defence Secretary, instead of an officer from the IAS? The challenges are many, but the issues referred to above are the ones difficult to implement. It is unlikely that the defence budget will be raised to two percent of GDP, but a great deal can be done to improve defence preparedness by streamlining procedures and reducing delays. India’s MoD too has been a stumbling block to the reform process, in a bid to preserve its turf. The challenge lies therein.

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