Amid the unfortunate controversy over the current Army Chief Gen VK Singh’s age issue, the restructuring process of the Indian Army Headquarters under the new transformation plan has quietly begun to roll out at South Block.
Under the new plan, the two Deputy Chiefs of Army Staff (DCOAS) have been given new and specific responsibilities to lessen the burden of the Vice Chief of Army Staff (VCOAS), the man who virtually runs the 1.3 million-strong Army on a day-to-day basis.
The implementation of the first phase of this transformation has gathered speed with the appointment of Lt. Gen Ramesh Halgali as the new Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Information Systems & Training) on Monday.
The other Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Policy and Services), Lt. Gen. Narinder Singh had taken over late last year.
Although the Army HQ has had two Deputy Chiefs looking after various functions for some years, a new and clear demarcation of responsibilities entrusted to them is aimed at streamlining the functioning and speed up decision-making processes at the apex level.
So while Lt. Gen Halgali will be responsible for Military Training, Signals (communication), Information Systems (automation), Staff duties (UN Missions etc), Rashtriya Rifles, Territorial Army and Defence Service Corps (the security guards at select military installations and campuses), Lt. Gen Narinder Singh will look after Procurement, Financial Planning, Perspective Planning and various ‘line’ directorates like Armoured Corps, Artillery, Mech Infantry etc.
This arrangement is designed to somewhat ease the burden on the Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt. Gen SK Singh. The Vice Chief of Army Staff has to not only give crucial decisions relating to day-today operational matters, but has to also liaise with the Defence Ministry and attend several high-level meetings with other functionaries from different ministries.
The streamlined hierarchy is likely to give little more time and space for the Vice Chief of Army Staff to function more efficiently.
In the Indian system, the Chief of Army Staff (COAS) has traditionally been giving broad policy direction for others to implement his ideas and concepts.
Lt. Gen Halgali, who came into limelight after he blew the whistle on the Sukna land issue when he was Chief of Staff at HQ 33 Corps as a Major General, was scheduled to take over as Deputy Chief last November but an adverse administrative remark on his record during the Sukna issue delayed his taking over the post by three months. Gen Halgali was Director General, Military Training before taking over as Deputy Chief on Monday.
As Chief of Staff at 33 Corps HQ in North Bengal, he had resisted attempts by the then Corps Commander Lt. Gen. PK Rath and the then Military Secretary, Lt. Gen Avadesh Prakash to issue a no-objection certificate for a transferring a piece of land adjacent to the Corps HQ to a business consortium for establishing a branch of the famous Mayo College.
Both PK Rath and Avadesh Prakash have been indicted in the case by an Army Court Martial. Gen. Halgali had got initially received an administrative rap for not reporting the matter expeditiously but has now been cleared of all charges since it later emerged that he had prevented the illegal attempt by his seniors to allow the group of businessman and the two generals to take advantage of loopholes in the system.
As Deputy Chief, Gen. Halgali will be in chair for nearly a year and three months to take forward the process of transformation both at the Army HQ level and down the line. Conceptualised in 2010 after a two-year study by a group of top generals under the current army chief, Gen VK Singh when he was the Eastern Army commander, the transformation aims to turn the lumbering Army into “an agile, lethal, versatile and networked force, which is capability-based to meet future challenges”. In a couple of interviews with me, Gen VK Singh has said the transformation must be 360 degrees and “enhance operational capability through reorganisation, restructuring, force development and relocation”.
The concept is based on 13 transformation studies. These range from ways to consolidate strike capabilities and “flatten” HQs, to “synergising” all resources. Some of the Army’s new transformative concepts are already being “test-bedded”.