Abolition of Posts in MES & Shekatkar Committee

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Context: Recently, the Defence Minister of India has approved a proposal for the abolition of a number of posts in the Military Engineering Service (MES).This move is in line with the recommendations of the Lt. Gen. D.B. Shekatkar (Retd.) Committee. MES is the infrastructure development agency for the armed forces and defence establishments.

Relevance:
Prelims: Current events of national and international importance
Mains: GS III-

  • Role of external state and non-state actors in creating challenges to internal security.
  • Challenges to internal security through communication networks, the role of media and social
  • networking sites in internal security challenges, basics of cybersecurity; money-laundering, and its prevention.
  • Security challenges and their management in border areas; linkages of organized crime with terrorism Various Security forces and agencies and their mandate.
More on Decision
  • There was a proposal of Engineer-in-Chief of Military Engineering Services (MES) for the optimization of more than 9,300 posts in the basic and industrial workforce. 
  • The proposal of the abolition of 9,304 posts in MES out of the total 13,157 vacancies of the Basic and Industrial staff has been approved by the Defence Minister.
  • It is in line with the recommendations of the Committee of Experts, headed by Lieutenant General Shekatkar, which had recommended measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the Armed Forces.
  • It has also recommended restructuring 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.

Key Reasons For abolition
  • Optimum Utilisation of Resources:
    • This step of the abolition of around 9000 posts of basic and industrial staff will lead to significant savings.
    • Almost 70% of the budget is used for payment of salaries and allowances and leaves very little money for actual infrastructural development.
  • Restructuring of the Workforce:
    • The committee also recommended restructuring the civilian workforce in a manner that the work of the MES could be partly done by departmentally employed staff and other works could be outsourced.
  • Efficient & Lean Workforce:
    • Its goal is to make the MES an effective organization with a leaner workforce, well equipped to handle complex issues in an efficient and cost-effective manner.
  • Projected Savings:
    • The recommendations can save up to ₹25,000 crores in defence expenditure if implemented over the next five years.
    • According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was among the top three top military spenders in the world in 2019 after the US and China.
Shekatkar Committee
  • It was an 11-member committee, appointed by the erstwhile Defence Minister in mid-2016.
  • It was headed by Lt. Gen. D.B. Shekatkar (Retd).
  • It had the mandate to suggest measures to enhance combat capability and rebalance defence expenditure of the armed forces.
  • It submitted its report in December 2016.
Recommendations of Shekatkar Committee
  • Numbers
    • It made about 99 recommendations from optimizing defence budget to the need for a Chief of the Defence Staff.
    • Of these, the first batch of 65 recommendations pertaining to the Army was approved in August 2017.
  • Budget
    • It recommended that India’s defence budget should be in the range of 2.5-3% of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), in view of current and future threats.
  • Institution restructuring 
    • It had also suggested the establishment of a Joint Services War College for the training of middle-level officers, with three separate war colleges at Mhow (Madhya Pradesh), Secunderabad (Telangana), and Goa, focusing on training younger officers.
    • The committee had also mooted for the Military Intelligence School at Pune to be converted to a tri-service intelligence training establishment.
    • The recommendations on the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff post and a Department of Military Affairs have been already implemented.
  • Restructuring of Army headquarters
    • The Army headquarters had instituted 4 studies with an overall aim to enhance the operational and functional efficiency of the force, optimize budget expenditure, facilitate modernization, and address aspirations.
    • These studies are Re-organisation and right-sizing of the Indian Army, Re-organisation of the Army Headquarters, Cadre review of officers, and Review of terms of engagement of rank and file.
  • Government Owned Contractor Operated (GOCO) Model
    • In the model, the assets owned by the government are operated by the private industries.
    • The main advantage of the model is that it is efficient and will boost competitiveness among the private entities.
    • Closure of Military Farms and Army Postal Establishments in peace locations.
  • Other recommendations
    • Which have been implemented include optimisation of signals establishments, restructuring of repair units, redeployment of ordnance echelons, better utilization of supply and transportation units and animal transport entities, etc.
Military Engineering services
  • Military Engineer Services is one of the oldest and largest government defense infrastructure development agencies in India. 
  • It is mainly employed in the engineering and construction of the Indian Armed Forces including the Indian Army, Indian Air Force, Indian Navy, Indian Ordnance Factories, DRDO and the Indian Coast Guard.
  • Besides conventional building construction for the Armed Forces, Military Engineer Services is also involved in the execution of sophisticated and complex projects like airfields, buildings, workshops, roads, sports complexes, runways, hangars, dockyards, wharves, and other marine structures.
  • Military Engineer Services has also been entrusted with the construction of the National War Memorial (India) and the National War Museum.
  • MES is an Inter-Service Organisation but has both Army and Civilian components of officers and other subordinate staff.

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