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Army looks to reduce troops by 2 lakh, deployment in Kashmir could be rejigged

The Army, which faces a shortage of about 1.35 lakh personnel, is aiming to reduce its strength from 12.8 lakh to around 10.8 lakh.

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New Delhi: The Army is looking to reduce its strength by nearly two lakh over a period of the next two years which could also see a rejig of the Rashtriya Rifles, the anti-terror units in Jammu and Kashmir, apart from some static units, ThePrint has learnt.

Sources in the defence and security establishment said that the Army wanted to bring down its strength from 12.8 lakh strong to around 10.8 lakh.

Asked if a timeline had been drawn, sources said that rationalisation of troop strength was an ongoing process and multiple aspects are being looked into.

The sources explained that due to no recruitment in the last two years, the Army is already facing a shortage of about 1.35 lakh personnel.

Even though the Agnipath scheme has been rolled out, recruitment for this year is only for around 35,000 to 40,000 personnel.

“On an average, around 60,000 personnel retire every year from the Army. The Agnipath scheme would only fill in a part of the shortfall and this is by design,” a source explained.

Sources said that once the recruitment process was completed, allotment to various arms like Infantry, Armoured, EME (Corps of Electronics and Mechanical Engineers) would be based on the rationalisation procedure.

For instance, repair and maintenance work at the Base Depot would be outsourced to the company from which the vehicle is bought.

The deputation to organisations like the National Cadets Corps (NCC) was also being cut significantly, sources said.

Another area which would see reduction in deputation is going to be the Regimental Headquarters.

“The idea is to ensure that the teeth-to-tail ratio is maintained in a healthy way,” a second source said.

The first to see a major rearrangement was the Army Headquarters. It saw multiple changes in 2021 which was focused on streamlining processes and also on cutting down the flab.

The Shekatkar Committee, set up by former defence minister Manohar Parrikar, had submitted a report in December 2016 calling for multiple changes to ensure the armed forces become much leaner, cohesive and modern.

Army rejig in Kashmir

Sources said that under the new policy, restructuring in deployment of Rashtriya Rifles (RR) in Jammu and Kashmir was being considered.

While the Union Territory has about 63 RR Battalions, it is unique from other units of the Army. Each of the RR battalion has six companies compared to four of a regular infantry formation, and each Company — comprising 100 to 150 troops — is headed by a Major.

Sources said that one of the thought processes was to reduce two companies in each battalion.

Another was to see whether the actual number of RR battalions could be reduced and whether the Area of Responsibility (AOR) be increased for each without affecting the
counter-terrorism grid.

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