Why reduction in manpower is bad for the Indian Army

Source- The post is based on the article “Why reduction in manpower is bad for the Indian Army” published in “The Indian express” on 30th May 2023.

Syllabus: GS3- Security

Relevance- Issues related to armed forces

News– Two big ideas are being pushed by politicians and bureaucrats masked as initiatives of the Armed Forces — right-sizing and Atmanirbharta.

Why the ideas of right-sizing and Atmanirbharta pushed by the Armed Forces are consequences of the OROP?

OROP was not a well thought-out decision. It was adopted for short-term electoral gains.

Its long-term cost is staggering. OROP’s annual bill exceeds funds allotted for modernisation. Last year, the five-year equaliser in OROP led to an increase of Rs 25,000 crore.

The revenue account is much larger as compared to capital account. So, the government had to reduce manpower. Ironically, Covid19 became a government ally in the mission.

What are some facts related to deficiency of manpower in armed forces?

For a full two-and-a-half years till June 2022, no recruitment was done. The government was working on the much-maligned Agniveer scheme. The aim was to reduce manpower and pension bills.

No recruitment in the last three years has created the deficiency of 1,80,000 personnel. The savings on salary bills as well as pensions are significant.

Agniveer recruitment commenced in June 2022 with the intake of 40,000 soldiers. 70,000 soldiers continued to retire.

2023 is the year of transformation in the Army. An additional 1,00,000 personnel will be reduced on top of the 1,80,000 existing shortfall. Last month, the Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff ordered a 10% cut in manpower across the force.

One reason for the dilution of manpower in the Army is the considerably improved insurgency situation in Jammu and Kashmir, particularly south of Banihal.  At least two Rashtriya Rifles sectors were redeployed from Jammu to Ladakh.

In the Northeast, two mountain divisions fighting insurgency have been relieved and the counter-insurgency mission is now with the Assam Rifles. The Manipur ethnic conflict is a warning.

What are the impacts of low recruitment in recent years?

The adverse impact of zero recruitment for nearly three years on combat units was very serious. Many of the soldiers were deployed against the Chinese PLA in Ladakh. But no one raised a voice.

Manpower deficiency has hurt Gorkha regiments the most. No recruitment has taken place this year. The government in Nepal is unable to decide on the Agniveer scheme. It prefers the old system of 15 years recruitment plus pension.

A suspension or termination of Gorkha recruitment from Nepal will have profound strategic consequences.

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