Armed forces told to take “optimisation measures” amid Covid-19 crisis - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Friday 24 April 2020

Armed forces told to take “optimisation measures” amid Covid-19 crisis

Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat looks to save money by slashing cookhouses in units and doing away with proper garages -- with tanks and trucks parked in "tin sheds"

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th April 20

Underlining the severe financial constraints imposed on the army, navy and air force as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), headed by the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, has sent out a letter ordering “optimization measures”. Officers, however, fear this will sharply impair the military’s equipment and functioning.

In the letter, which Business Standard has reviewed, Rawat, in his capacity as DMA Secretary and CDS, has slashed expenditure on the building of unit medical facilities, training simulators, soldiers’ cookhouses and officers’ messes. 

The letter orders that no concrete garages are to be built hereafter for armoured vehicles like the T-90 tank, even though they are damaged by excessive heat. Instead, these crucial combat platforms, costing Rs 25-27 crore each, are to be housed in “tin sheds and not concrete (garages).”

Army trucks and jeeps, similarly, will be housed in “temporary sheds – hard standing with tin sheds.” Vehicles that bring personnel to office will stand all day in the open, since these are “parked for limited durations.”

In the memo, Rawat “has desired that more such optimization is to be identified and an advisory issued” after his approval. The army, navy and air force headquarters have been asked to suggest additional cost cutting measures.

Military sources also say that Rawat has ordered the army, navy and air force to place a hold on the purchase of new equipment from the capital budget during the first quarter of this financial year.

On Friday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told a video conference of top commanders, including Rawat and the three service chiefs, “to initiate measures to spend the financial resources, avoiding wastage in view of the economic burden imposed by Covid-19,” according to the defence ministry.

And on Thursday, the government announced a freeze on additional increments of Dearness Allowance and Dearness Relief for 18 months for all central government employees, including serving military personnel and veterans.

Officers from combat units say these measures would undermine their capability in combat. The army’s fighting units have always been structurally self-contained, incorporating all the administrative elements needed to operate independently in wartime. Each company, squadron or battery – subunits comprising about 100 soldiers – has its own cookhouse and administrative components, enabling it to fight and move independently. 

Long experience has shown that a single field cookhouse cannot feed more than about 125 soldiers. Now, with the number of cookhouses halved to two per battalion, they will struggle to feed many more soldiers, affecting both quality and efficiency.

Similarly, a battalion or regiment, -- the basic combat unit, consisting of three-to-four companies, squadrons or batteries – has always had its own officers’ mess and junior commissioned officers’ (JCO’s) club. Besides housing and feeding the battalion/regiment’s officers, including during wartime, the mess is usually a repository of unit history, often displaying memorabilia and souvenirs captured from the enemy in war.

Now, Rawat has ordered officers’ messes to be constructed for military stations, not for units.

“Instead of cutting flab, the government is cutting close to the bone. The Covid-19 crisis is real, but we cannot afford a return to the 1990s, when funding cuts severely damaged the military’s capability,” says a combat unit commander, on condition of anonymity.


  1. No nation on earth would try to save 25 cr by risking it's expensive tanks by housing them in tin sheds. By the way why should concrete structures to house a tank cost 25 crores ?Corruption so much ?

    If retired army veterans were to take up the issue of cost cutting measures in army with Modiji directly it would serve a national intrest.

    For instance our nation could have saved over 50 lac crores perhaps over the years had it restricted the pay commission recommend. to the military only n not to civilians in the govt.

    The Center anyway gives DA twice a year to take care of inflation.The govt employees are compensated very handsomely compared to their pvt sector counterparts particularly in the pay scale below 1 lac. A teacher or any govt servant earns twice to three times their equivalent pvt sector rank. Besides large hearted benevolent govt care in health n retirement benefits. So why do they need pay commission . And remember pay commission are recommendations , not mandated rules.

    The States follow the center and simrarly raise pay to their employees to center pay commission levels Last pay commission recommend set back our combined finances by 7-8 lac crores , I think.

    The pay commision was started so that the military would be considered as a nice option to employment and the pay scale was brought to level or make it attractive to the civilian pay . By linking the civilians also , govts over the decades had fallen to the designs of civil secretaries drafting the paperwork who by their short sightness n pursuit of self interest have dealt a body blow to India's govt finances year after year.

  2. India in terms of number of test conducted per million was between 250-300 per million. We still don't know how many of those were antigen/ antibody tests due to the deliberate opaqueness of Indian diagnostic test data. Compare this with 13,000 per million in USA. Further, India has so far tested roughly about 0.049% (6,65,819) of its population. Compare this with Iceland's 10% or Germany's 2.5% (2.07 million) or US's 1.7% (5.46 million) of their population. India will NEVER be able to expand its testing capacity due to bureaucratic intransigence and incompetence. A better option in the light of lesser reported fatalities is to lift the lock down and let nature run its course. If a miracle happens, then it will be in spite of government not due to government.

  3. Absolutely bad. If you want to save money, buy cheaper weapons (a.k.a made in india), but never play with the morale of the forces. Or forcefully retire a few armchair generals. But please don't mess with the mess.


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