Army chief sets 6-month deadline to meet targets Concerned over slow modernisation and acquisition of equipment to maintain operational preparedness, Army Chief General Bikram Singh has given six months time to his top commanders to meet the targets. He will review the situation in June next year. This strong directive issued earlier this week comes in the backdrop of the then Army Chief General VK Singhâ€™s writing a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in March listing critical shortages of ammunition and weapons. VK Singh had said the shortfalls were affecting operational readiness of the Army and had urged the Government to take immediate steps to address the issue. His letter created a storm in the Budget session of Parliament and MPs then reviewed the working of the defence ministry and the armed forces during an intense debate. Taking cognizance of apprehensions expressed by his predecessor, Bikram, who took over as the Chief in June, asked his commanders including those heading the six commands including Northern, Western, South-Western, Southern, Eastern and Army Training Command(ARTRAC) to focus on the core issues, officials said here on Sunday. The review in June will cover all aspects pertaining to the Armyâ€™s preparedness to fight in an ever changing scenario, they said adding that the commanders were also asked to inform the Chief about hurdles faced in implementing various projects. Elaborating upon the significance of the review, sources said the feedback by commanders will enable the Army Chief to take them up with the Government for action, wherever needed. Focus of the review will be on the progress made in acquisition of modern weapons and ammunition, training, implementation of various measures to address the issue of shortage of officers in units in operational areas like Kashmir and recent incidents of face off between officers and jawans, they said. While procurement of weapon systems is an ongoing process, Bikram is keen that issues like face-offs and shortage of officers should be addressed in the right earnest. He recently announced some measures like strict check on granting study leave to young officers and more interaction between commanding officers and jawans. The Army has not bought a new artillery gun for the last 25 years after the Bofors scandal in mid 1980s and the shortage is affecting the Armyâ€™s plans. Moreover, lack of night fighting capability is hampering the capability to fight a war 24X7 as infantry, artillery and armoured regiments do not have this critical component. Besides the shortages, the elite Special Forces lack highly-specialised weaponry for carrying out strategic missions and these shortfalls were pointed out by VK Singh to the political leadership. Increasing number of face offs including four in the last two years, an in house anaylsis of these incidents indicated that one of the key reasons in operational units was shortage of officers as some of them take study leave leaving the remaining officers burdened with additional work. It does not allow them to interact regularly with jawans serving under them and the void leads to face-offs which also tantamount to indiscipline, officials said. The new study leave rule introduced two months back is expected to see the shortage coming down by at least 15 to 20 per cent as the officers will spend more time in field and keep track of problems including professional and personal of the jawans and address them as soon as possible. Moreover, the officers will be allowed to appear for Staff College examination only after putting in more than ten years of service in the field. Earlier, the officers used to start preparing for the Staff College examination within a few years of joining service and professional soldiering took a backseat, sources said. The Army Chief will take stock of the pace of implementation of the measures in the review, officials said.