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Shut down canteens, relieve sahayaks — here’s how the armed forces can really cut costs

7 26 31

Given the state of the economy and the proverbial ‘guns versus butter’ dilemma in a developing country, India’s defence budget is unlikely to increase in the near future. To compound the problem, the revenue expenditure and the pension bill have increased manifold, leaving very little for capital expenditure, thus adversely affecting military modernisation.

Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat and the Service chiefs are endeavouring to optimise the utilisation of the defence budget by reducing the revenue expenditure to correspondingly increase the capital expenditure. The focus has been to reduce manpower, pension bill, bring in austerity measures and curtail diversion of personnel for internal non-military duties. The Army has come up with a slew of proposals in this regard in its report — Optimisation of Manpower and Resources: Review of Practices and Facilities in Indian Army. Also, the CDS has proposed an increase in the retirement age to save on pensions as a short-term measure and disincentives for officers seeking premature retirement.

However, what seems to be missing is a top-down holistic long-term approach, based on a strategic review. These are, at best, short-term incremental measures that, in some cases, also tend to impinge on the ethos and functional efficiency of the armed forces. Some of these proposals will also have an adverse effect on the attraction of the armed forces as an elite organisation with in-built perks and privileges financed out of regimental (quasi private) funds. In some cases, the proposals impinge on fundamental issues such as maintaining a young profile and stagnation in promotions.

Apart from the suggestions in the ‘Optimisation’ report, the forces and the government can also look at the following measures to save costs and re-route funds into........

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