IMPLEMENTING yet another recommendation of the Shekatkar Committee, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the proposal to abolish over 9,300 posts of the Military Engineering Services (MES), the infrastructure development agency for the armed forces and defence establishments.
The decision comes days after Singh chaired a meeting on April 20 on further implementation of recommendations of the committee. The meeting was attended by the Chief of Defence Staff, three service chiefs and top Ministry of Defence officials.
Welcoming the order, Lieutenant General D B Shekatkar (retd), who had headed the committee, said this restructuring was “needed to slim down the MES” as according to primary estimates, MES has a workforce of over 80,000 and an annual budget of Rs 10,000 crore.
“Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the proposal of Engineer-in-Chief of Military Engineering Services (MES) for optimisation of more than 9,300 posts in the basic and industrial workforce. It is in line with the recommendations of the Committee of Experts (CoE), headed by Lt General Shekatkar. One of the recommendations made by the committee was to restructure the civilian workforce in a manner that the work of MES could be partly done by departmentally- employed staff and other works could be outsourced.” read a statement from the Ministry of Defence.
In mid-2016, the then Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar had ordered the constitution of the CoE under the Chairmanship of Lt Gen Shekatkar with a mandate to “suggest measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces”. The CoE submitted its report in December 2016.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Lt Gen Shekatkar said, “As part of our mandate, the CoE had looked into anyone and everyone who gets paid from defence budget. The MES has a workforce of over 80,000 and an annual budget of Rs 10,000 crore… and 70 per cent of the budget is used for payment of salaries and allowances… thus leaving very little money for actual infrastructural development.”
MoD officials said that in line with the recommendations made by the committee, the proposal of abolition of 9,304 posts in MES out of the total 13,157 posts of the Basic and Industrial staff has been approved by Defence minister. This implies that 9,300 positions will not be filled once people in these posts retire, or if these posts are vacant, there will not be any recruitments for them.
“The specific recommendation about the MES was aimed at reducing its flab and making it ready for various future security scenarios. And of course to make it efficient and cost-effective. This is a welcome development and I hope to see more recommendations getting implemented,” said Lt Gen Shekatkar.
Other recommendations of the CoE which are already being implemented include optimisation of signals establishments, restructuring of repair units, redeployment of ordnance echelons,
better utilisation of supply and transportation units and animal transport entities, closure of military farms and army postal establishments in peace locations, among others.
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