File photo. Photograph:( Zee News Network )
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday addressed the armed forces on the eve of 72nd Independence Day and highlighted the various initiatives taken by the central government to reform the Indian Army.
She said that the ministry has decided to reform the Indian Army in "planned manner."
"In a first-ever exercise after Independence, the Ministry of Defence in consultation with the Indian Army has decided to reform the Indian Army in a planned manner. The first phase of the reforms involves redeployment and restructuring of approximately 57,000 posts of officers, JCOs, ORs and civilians," Sitharaman said.
"Major reforms include optimisation of Signals establishments, restructuring of repair echelons, redeployment of Ordnance echelons, better utilization of Supply and Transport echelons and Animal Transport units besides closure of Military Farms and Army postal establishments in peace locations. Steps are also being taken towards enhancement in standards for recruitment of clerical staff and drivers in the Army and improving the efficiency of the National Cadet Corps," she added.
Sitharaman also paid homage to the jawans who sacrificed their lives while serving for the nation.
"As we celebrate this festival of freedom, my heart goes out to those brave martyrs of the soil and their families who gave the supreme sacrifice to protect our motherland. We remember them with gratitude and the nation will always remain indebted to them. They set an example to the society through their selfless sacrifice," Sitharaman said.
"From the Ministry of Defence, our endeavour would be to provide all dues and facilities to our brave soldiers who guard the nation and ensure peace and thus, prosperity to the countrymen. Let me assure you that there shall be no shortcoming in this effort," she added.
Further highlighting few decisions taken by the Centre, Sitharaman said: "In line with the recommendations of the 7th Pay Commission, we have taken the decision to pay the uniform allowance and clarity has been brought in with respect to what is covered within the ambit of the allowance and what clothing items will be provided by the Government."
She added: "A contract for procurement of nearly two lakh bullet-proof jackets with best of the class specifications is underway. Similarly, in order to ensure faster decision making, be for the day to day requirements of the troops or the ammunitions, greater powers have been delegated to the force headquarters and other lower functionaries. All available funds are being put to optimum utilisation, so that there is no shortage of essential items."
She further highlighted that the government had taken a "historic decision to implement `One Rank, One Pension`, OROP for Defence personnel in November 2015 and had promised to pay arrears in four instalments. I can say that all OROP arrears have been cleared now with over Rs 10,788 crore spent. More than 65.81 lakh defence pensioners have benefited from this.
"The Government has enhanced the monetary allowances for the Gallantry Award winners, Sitharaman said.
"Also, to recognise and honour the gallantry of our soldiers, the National War Memorial is under construction near India Gate at New Delhi. It will be inaugurated soon," she added.
Sitharaman said that orders have been issued by the Department of Public Enterprises for recruitment of disabled Ex-Servicemen and the dependents of Servicemen killed in action in Group C and D posts in Public Sector Enterprises by giving them relaxed standards in selection.
"The government is also committed to provide houses to the Army personnel and their widows on `No Profit, No Loss` basis. The Army Welfare Housing Organisation has completed 96 projects and handed over 29,891 houses to soldiers and families so far and will continue to do so," she added.
The Defence Minister concluded her address by saying, "With these words, I once again extend my heartiest greetings to all of you and your near and dear ones on the 72nd Independence Day. The country looks at you with great pride and you must keep on guarding the border-lines with all the might and be always prepared to reply to any aggression by the forces inimical to the nation. Let us give our very best in the service of Mother India!"