In an attempt to become leaner, the 1.2-million strong Indian Army plans to cut non-combat jobs in near future.

Indian Army Chief General Dalbir Singh recently asked the top brass of the armed forces to conduct a study in order to find out how the forces, currently battling a fund squeeze, could be right-sized. General Singh also asked one of his senior-most generals to start reducing the strength from August without disturbing the force’s tooth-to-tail ratio. The ratio is the number of personnel (tail) needed to support a combat soldier (tooth).

Talking to the media in New Delhi on Wednesday, a senior Army officer said: “Spending cuts have squeezed the budget. Strengthening the tooth-to-tail ratio will improve combat efficiency and result in savings. The roadmap to reform should be ready in three months.”

Meanwhile, former Vice Chief of the Indian Army Lieutenant General (Retired) Philip Campose believes that it will be difficult to determine the ratio, as the figure could differ with the model used for calculation. He explained: “But at a very basic level, if we talk about an Army division… it has a fighting complement of around 14,000 soldiers. They are supported by around 3,000 soldiers in a logistics role. The size of this tail can be reduced to improve the ratio.” Currently, the Army, which has a sanctioned strength of 49,631 officers, is short of around 9,106 officers. So, according to Lieutenant General (Retired) Campose, it becomes crucial for the Army to reorient roles of officers in order to improve the ratio.

Interestingly, the Indian Army chief made the move just five months after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that his government would modernise and expand forces. With this announcement, the PM made a clear indication that India would spend more money to sharpen the Army’s combat potential through technology rather than support elements.

From 2005 to 2013, the Indian Army had cut more than 14,000 jobs. The Modi government is well aware of the fact that right-sizing the world’s second biggest force will help control ballooning expenditure. So, it asked General Singh to review the Army’s “logistics philosophy and concepts” and arrive at the “most advantageous model of sustenance”.

While tabling a report in the Parliament on May 3, Defence Secretary G Mohan Kumar said that the South Asian country’s defence spending for 2016-17 was not in keeping with the requirements of the armed forces. In February, the government announced that it would spend INR 2.58 trillion (USD 1 = INR 66.48) or 1.74% of India’s GDP on defence, a marginal increase of 9.7% over last year’s revised estimates.

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]