Time has come for armed forces’ reforms: Parliamentary panel

February 24th, 2009 - 8:30 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Saying it was “high time” reforms were brought in the armed forces to address “undesirable discriminatory practices” based on rank and gender bias, a parliamentary panel has also urged an “attitudinal change” in the mindset of the higher echelons of the military in view of socio-economic changes in society.
In a series of far-reaching recommendations, parliament’s standing committee on defence has also asked the defence ministry to also “devise an effective training strategy” to meet the long term requirements of the armed forces and said it was “perturbed” that the measures taken to address the staggering shortage of officers “have not proved efficacious enough”.

This apart, the committee, in its 34th report tabled in parliament Tuesday, noted that the recruitment procedure for officers had remained virtually static during the last three decades and that no attention had been paid to promotional avenues for personnel below officer rank (PBORs) like what had been done in the case of officers.

The committee also pointed to various “areas of concern” in the operations of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and wanted “urgent action” for operationalising the newly created Armed Forces Tribunal “without any further delay”.

“It is high time that multi-pronged strategies are devised and adopted to bring in necessary reforms in the armed forces,” the committee, chaired by Lok Sabha MP Balasaheb Vikhe-Patil (Congress), said in its report.

The committee, therefore, “desired that concrete steps should be taken to discard undesirable discriminatory practices based on rank structure and gender bias.

“Needless to say that such steps would not only result in redressal of genuine grievances of lower ranks but also help in better management of stress levels in the armed forces,” the committee maintained.

This apart there was “need for attitudinal change in the mindset of those in the higher echelon in view of the socio-economic changes in the society and the enhanced level of the educational qualifications amongst the personnel holding lower ranks in the armed forces,” the committee said.

Turning to the huge shortage of 14,666 officers in the armed forces, with the army alone accounting for 11,807 of these, the committee said it was “not inclined” to accepting the defence ministry’s view that this was mainly due to the youth according to low priority to a military career.

The entire issue “continues to be viewed in isolation without properly appreciating the complexities of the various aspects of the manpower planning and human resource management in all its ramifications”, the committee felt.

On the promotion avenues for officers, the panel said: “Although the government appointed the A.V. Singh committee and implemented its report with a view to fulfilling individual career aspirations of officers”, it was “strange that no such efforts have been directed toward PBORs.

“The committee desires that similar steps should be taken for the career advancement of PBORs,” it said.

In the case of the DRDO, the committee found the absence of a system to assess manpower requirements, inadequate initiatives to encourage young scientists join the organisation and inadequate pre-induction training infrastructure.

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