Published On : Sat, Nov 24th, 2018

Restructuring of cadre: Is military hierarchy going to shoot itself in the foot?

In a recent move, which many experts described as disastrous one, the top military brass ordered review and restructuring of Army Officers, JCOs and soldiers cadre that would impact the career of nearly 1.45 lakh soldiers of the Indian Army.

According to reliable sources speaking to Nagpur Today informed that the Army HQ had organised briefing and interaction with veterans on November 18, 2018 regarding recommendations prepared by various Restructuring Committees. The experts feel that from the recommendations of Cadre Restructuring Committees, it appears that Military Hierarchy may end up shooting itself in the foot. Is it lack of deeper understanding of issues involved or vested interests overriding genuine concerns? Though touted as RMA / drastic / radical / progressive by some, on scrutiny many of the recommendations appear motivated and regressive.

Some of the highlights of recommendations of Cadre Restructuring Committees are as follows:

Commissioned Officers’ Cadre:
(a) Two Officers per Battalion to be reduced. Overall reduction of approx 4500 officers.

(b) Direct Entry/ IMA Entry of Officers to be stopped. NDA entry to provide Regular Officers.

(c) Short Service / OTA entry to be increased. Only 25% to be subsequently given Permanent Commission.

(d) Promotability from Lt Col to Col to be increased from current 35-38% to about 55-60%.

(e) Promotability from Col to Brig to be reduced from current 35-38% to about 25-30%.

(f) Brigadiers to be automatically promoted to Maj Gen after 2-3 yrs. Both ranks of Brigs & Maj Gens to be placed in same Pay Level 14.

(g) Brigs Ranks to be worn while commanding Bdes, serving in Tri-Services Orgs & on Deputation postings & foreign assignments.

(h) Time Scale (TS) Col for Non Empanelled (NE) Lt Cols in 23 yrs & TS Brig for NE Cols one year before their retirement.

(j) Staff Stream to start from Col onwards.

(k) About 20% Reduction of Offrs in Delhi, including four ADGs. Only Cols & above to be posted to Army HQ in Delhi.

(l) Most of Sub Area HQ to be abolished & responsibilities transferred to Corps HQ.

JCOs & Soldiers Cadre:

(a) 3rd Cadre Restructuring of JCOs/OR already approved by Government. Additional vacancies for JCOs & NCOs sanctioned by Govt to be absorbed over 5 yrs, starting with 2018.

(b) About 15-20 soldiers per unit to be reduced. Overall reduction of about one lakh in the standing strength.

(c) Recruitment Training period not to be counted as Service for promotions/pensions.

(d) Almost every Soldier to get promoted to Naik in about 14 yrs of physical service.

(e) Those unwilling for promotions/ failing in promotion cadres not be given MACP.

(f) Those getting re-employed in DSC not to be given second pension.

Points to Ponder !

The Committee has rightly identified its aim as achieving career aspirations & status parity, under organisational constraints. However, it seems to be failing to address any of these issues. Some of the recommendations appear grossly regressive & legally untenable, especially those related to Soldiers.

Secondly, the Committee claims to have taken feedback from all stake holders as well as from the field environment. However, this doesn’t seem to be case on ground. The Committee has reportedly been working as a closed coterie, keeping everything secretive, to the extent that Cols & Brigs were not even allowed to attend its meetings. Does the hierarchy understand the spirit & meaning of accountability through transparency, specially with respect to HR policies?

Thirdly, the entire proceedings appear to have been driven by single point agenda of Optimisation of Revenue Expenditure & Pension Bill, as defined by Chief of Army Staff (COAS), based on artificially created concerns due to grossly inadequate Budget allocation (1.56% of GDP), lowest ever in last about 50 yrs. All the recommendations seem to have been force-fed to the Committee. It seems vehement objections from some Members & field environment were ignored.

Moreover, even the observations/suggestions put forth by senior veterans during the interaction on November 18 were dealt with contempt, to the extent that COAS himself took personal offense to some of the suggestions/observations.

Further, the Committee seems to lacks the expertise to deal with Pay & Status issues, as evident from its recommendations. Two distinct hierarchical Military Ranks (Brigadiers & Major Generals in this case) cannot be placed in same Pay Level 14. Wearing Maj Gen’s ranks in Services HQ but that of Brigs’ on deputation is likely to result in down-gradation of Maj Gens.

While the vacancies for Cols have been proposed to be increased, vacancies for Brigs/Maj Gens are being reduced, which is likely to result in unmanageable stagnation at Cols level.

While every Civ Gp B entry in services HQ is presently retiring in SAG, over 70% of Regular Commissioned Officers would still continue to go home below SAG after Restructuring, thereby putting career progression of Commissioned Officers even lower than civilian Gp B Cadre.

Presently SAG & above Posts in Army are not even 1% (Lt Gen/Gen- 0.2% & Maj Gen- 0.6%) while in most of Gp A Services these range from 20% to 35%.

Even after proposed Restructuring, above mentioned situation for Commissioned Officers will remain unchanged if not deteriorate.

Though certain restructurings in Army HQ are certainly needed, however, 20% reduction of Officers in Delhi appears to be done at the behest of Civil AFHQ Cadre so as to accommodate their Officers who have done three Restructurings during last 20 yrs. During recent restructuring itself, they have increased their higher designations by about 300%. Is someone playing to galleries?

Fuerther, presently there is an inescapable requirement to strengthen/ augment functioning of Station HQ & Sub Area HQ, rather than disbanding the Sub Areas.Separate Posts of Stn Cdrs need to be created as neglect of stn & sub area matters has started to have serious adverse implications on local administrative issues.

Reduction in strength of Army organisations/ restructurings/disbandments should be dictated by operational considerations, rather than hidden agendas or budget constraints. The overall agenda appears to be facilitating vacation/ transfer of Defence land, with certain instructions already in pipeline & with another Committee working overtime for amending Cantt Board Act.

Most of the recommendations related to Soldiers appear to be out-right regressive & legally untenable. Instead of recommending counting of last year of training as service & grant of DACP to Officers, which is presently available to soldiers only, the Committee has recommended for discounting training period of soldiers also & taking away their MACP (indirectly). Thus, instead of incentivising soldiering, these recommendations appear to be aimed at only cost cuttings, by depriving Soldiers of their entitlements. It is likely to result in further lowering of their morale & motivation.

Hope this apparent conclusion is proved wrong. The Restructuring Committees appears to be failing in holistically addressing the career aspirations & status parity issues. Important issues like counting of last year of training as service, creation of feeder cadre, DACP/NFU/delinking pay from ranks, status & pay progression related to All India Services in general & IPS in particular etc, have been left totally unaddressed.

This assumes grave seriousness in view of the increasing dissatisfaction amongst military officers, with the current Restructuring being done after a gap of 35 yrs. It’s time for military hierarchy to embrace transparency & inclusiveness in formulation of progressive policies rather than treating it as an exclusive fiefdom of certain coteries whose apparent focus remains inward and motivated.

… By Rajeev Ranjan Kushwaha (rajeev.nagpurtoday@gmail.com)