A slew of measures proposed to streamline utilisation of manpower as well as financial and material resources has been received well, but is creating ripples in Army circles. Because the proposals include doing away with Army Day and Territorial Army Day parades in New Delhi, cutting down on ceremonial practices such as brass bands and quarter guards, individual officers’ mess and CSD canteen for units in peace stations.
These proposed measures are part of a report circulated after an internal review of existing practices. Titled ‘Optimisation of Manpower and Resources: Review of Practices and Facilities in Indian Army’, the exercise was conducted earlier this year. Several suggestions were circulated among major establishments, command headquarters and major directorates of the Army — and received broad concurrence.
The Sunday Express has learnt that the proposed measures include discontinuing the Army Day parade on January 15 and Territorial Army Day parade on October 9.
The number of Army bands and pipes and drums ensembles that participate in the Republic Day parade and Beating Retreat ceremony are proposed to be brought down from 30 (15 bands and 15 pipes and drums) to 18 (10 bands and 8 pipes and drums). The rationale: while in the past the number of marching contingents in the Republic Day parade had been brought down from 12 to 6, there had not been any corresponding decrease in the number of bands.
The proposals also state that Vijay Divas and Kargil Vijay Divas events should be held with least “fanfare”, and that while the aim is to motivate troops, “non-military aims” should not be part of the events with large manpower committed to these. Instead of colour presentation ceremonies, held at various locations across the country, to various regiments, this event is now proposed to be held only once a year at Rashtrapati Bhavan and will be attended by representatives of the units to be awarded along with their Colonel of the Regiment.
Similarly, one investiture ceremony will be held in Delhi for awardees of Army HQs and other units based in Delhi. This will be presided upon by the Vice Chief of Army Staff or the GOC-in-C, Western Command. At the command level too, there will be only one investiture ceremony a year.
The number of residential guards of Generals are proposed to be restricted to only 4 (One NCO and three other ranks) and these too shall be authorised only to Lt Generals and above as per entitlement. While visiting other stations, only the Chief of Army Staff, Vice Chief of Army Staff and Army Commanders will be provided residential guards if the stay is overnight.
Multiple officers’ mess of permanently located units in peace stations are proposed to be amalgamated to form one station mess. However, units which move from peace to field tenures would be able to retain their officers’ mess. A board of officers is proposed to be set up to prepare a phased plan for establishing station officers’ mess.
Military police outriders and escorts for Generals are to be stopped and restricted only to a few ceremonial events. The Corps of Military Police is to focus on maintaining discipline among troops and for traffic control as also to “hone their policing skills”. No military police vehicle or outriders are proposed to escort any VIP within military stations too.
The Motorcycle Rider Display Teams of the Army Service Corps Centre and College, CMP Centre and School and the 1 Signal Training Centre are proposed to be merged into one team at the Signal Training Centre by 2022 and the rest of the teams are to be disbanded by 2025.
Another proposal mooted is to do away with unit ‘quarter guards’ which house a large complement of manpower. A ceremonial guard may be mounted there once a month, and for the rest of the time, tactical guard should be used.
The cultural and dance troupe, traditional martial arts teams and jazz bands of units will cease to exist. They could continue to be used as ‘hobby’, their activities restricted to the unit.
Also, a unit can decide whether it wants to celebrate Battle Honour Day or Raising Day in the year — both will not be held. Raising Day events would also be curtailed and no gifts or memento are proposed to be exchanged.
Like officers’ mess, there is a proposal to do away with individual unit CSD canteens in one station, and combine the many canteens into one in peace stations, keeping accessibility in mind.
Under the new scheme of things, it will not be mandatory for units to maintain a pipe and drum band. As of now, almost all infantry and mechanised infantry units have a medical platoon whose members are trained as band members.
The recommendations state that there is considerable scope to optimise the number of pipes and drums as several of them are often found in one station. A board of officers is proposed to be convened to identify bands for disbandment. Some infantry battalions which are not authorised bands but have them out of tradition will not have to discontinue the practice.
Lesser attachments of jawans from units to higher headquarters, outsourcing of Diwali Melas, and discarding archaic office practices are some of the other measures proposed.
A senior officer in Army HQs said most responses have been positive, endorsing the proposals. “A final call on the proposals will be taken at the Army Commanders Conference which is scheduled to be held later this month in New Delhi,” the officer said.