Government has accepted and implemented important recommendations of Committee of Experts (CoE) under the Chairmanship of Lt General D B Shekatkar (Retd) relating to border Infrastructure. These were related to speeding up road construction, leading to socio economic development in the border areas.

  1. On the matter related to creating border infrastructure, the Government has implemented recommendation of CoE to outsource road construction work beyond optimal capacity of Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
  2. It has been made mandatory to adopt Engineering Procurement Contract (EPC) mode for execution of all works costing more than Rs 100 crore.
  3. The other recommendation relating to introduction of modern construction plants, equipment and machinery has been implemented by delegating enhanced procurement powers from Rs 7.5 crore to Rs 100 crore to BRO, for domestic and foreign procurements.
  4. Border Roads has recently inducted Hot-Mix Plant 20/30 TPH for speedier laying of roads, remote operated hydraulic Rock Drills DC-400 R for hard rock cutting, a range of F-90 series of self-propelled snow-cutters/blowers for speedier snow clearance.
  5. New Technology like blasting technology for precision blasting, use of Geo-Textiles for soil stabilisation, cementitious base for pavements, plastic coated aggregates for surfacing, is also being used to enhance the pace of construction.
  6. With the empowerment of field officers through enhanced delegation of financial and administrative powers, there has been significant improvement in faster financial closure of works.
  7. The land acquisition and all statutory clearances like forest and environmental clearance are also made part of approval of Detailed Project Report (DPR).
  8. Further, with the adoption of EPC mode of execution, it is mandatory to award work only when 90 per cent of the statutory clearances have been obtained, implementing the recommendation of CoE regarding obtaining prior clearances before the commencement of the project.

DB Shekatkar Committee

The military reforms committee – under Lt General (retd.) DB Shekatkar – was set up by then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in 2015.

  • The committee was established with a mandate for Enhancing Combat Capability and Rebalancing Defence Expenditure.
  • The Lt Gen DB Shekatkar Committee recommended a number of measures to trim, redeploy and integrate manpower under the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in a gradual manner to meet the objective of an agile but effective military to meet current and future threats that India faces
  • The committee submitted its report on December 21, 2016 with some 200 recommendations.

Mandate of the committee:

  1. To review logistics, training and administrative establishments for the purpose of optimizing manpower in defence forces and increase “Teeth to Tail ratio”.
  2. Suggest redeployment, repositioning and restructuring of manpower and resources to improve combat capability.
  3. Suggest integration of civil infrastructure and resources into the logistic system of the armed forces to avoid duplication and reduce expenditure
  4. Suggest measures to correct the bias of defence budget towards revenue expenditure.

Major Recommendations are as follows

  1. Increase Defence Budget Allocation
    • The committee has recommended that the defence budget should be in the range of 2.5 and three per cent of the GDP.
    • This would however require a substantial change in approach and outlook of the government towards the armed forces.
    • For the last five years for instance, defence budget has remained around two per cent of the GDP.
  2. Review the definition of ‘Capital’ and ‘Revenue’ budget heads
    • One of the major recommendations of the committee is to review the definition of ‘Capital’ and ‘Revenue’ budget heads in the funds allocated to the three armed forces, particularly the Indian Army.
    • The panel notes that the Indian Army—unlike the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force—will have to remain a manpower-intensive force because of its major deployment in the mountains against both its major adversaries, China and Pakistan.
    • As a result the sustenance budget of the Indian Army will be higher than the other two services leaving very little money for capital acquisition.
    • The panel has reportedly therefore recommended that a ‘roll on’ plan for fresh acquisitions be introduced so as to overcome the practice of ‘surrendering’ funds at the end of every financial year.
  3. Review of the financial management system of the MoD
    • The panel has also suggested a review of the financial management system of the MoD in which the defence finance wing is seen to be more of an impediment in clearing projects
    • The committee has recommended that the financial powers of all the three chiefs and vice chiefs be enhanced further to quicken the pace of acquisitions.
  4. Performance audit of non-combat organizations
    • As for redeployment and rationalising of manpower, the Shekatkar Committee has recommended that the role of non-combat organisations paid for and sustained by the defence budget be subjected to a performance audit.
    • Some of these organisations mentioned in the report are Defence Estates, Defence Accounts, DGQA, Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), DRDO, and the National Cadet Corps (NCC).
    • Once a professional and objective review is carried out, the committee said, substantial savings can be achieved by downsizing or rationalising the manpower in these organisations.
  5. Establishment of a Joint Services War College
    • The committee has also suggested the establishment of a Joint Services War College for training for middle level officers (the higher command course for instance),
    • The three separate War Colleges—currently at Mhow, Secunderabad and Goa—for Army, Air Force and Navy could continue to train younger officers for their respective service.
  6. Tri-service Intelligence training establishment
    • Similarly it has recommended that the Military Intelligence School at Pune be converted to a tri-service Intelligence training establishment.
  7. Better coordination between the MoD and state governments on renewing lease of land for crucial firing ranges
    • Another aspect highlighted by the committee is the increasing reluctance on part of the state governments to renew lease of land for crucial firing ranges for the troops.
    • Increasing urbanization and pressure on land has meant that the armed forces have to battle political and bureaucratic pressure to retain the existing firing ranges.
    • The panel has therefore suggested better coordination between the MoD and state governments to overcome this problem.
  8. Ramp up the quantum of training on various simulators
    • The Committee has also suggested that the armed forces ramp up the quantum of training on various simulators.
    • The new recruits can do about 60 per cent of their firing training on simulators, resulting in substantial savings to the tune of Rs 20-25 crore per annum in expenditure of training ammunition, the committee has suggested.
    • There are several other suggestions to improve efficiency of Border Roads Organisation (BRO), re-orienting the training staff of NCC by utilising more ex-servicemen and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) to free young serving officers for more mainline jobs and even recommending the possibility of shifting NCC under the Human Resources Development (HRD) Ministry.
  9. Appointment of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
    • The Shekatkar Committee too has said a 4-star Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)—or a Permanent Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee—be appointed as a ‘chief coordinator’ between the military and the Ministry of Defence.
    • This recommendation has recently institutionalized with the appointment of General Bipin Rawat as the first CDS on 1st January 2020.

The Shekatkar Committee has made it clear that the saving made as a result of its recommendations must be redeployed in enhancing the combat capabilities of the Indian armed forces and not be merged in the general budget.

The entire report is focused on shedding the flab in the MoD and make India’s armed forces more agile and technology-oriented to meet current and future national security objectives

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