The Indian government has introduced its ambitious and dramatic Agnipath scheme that defines a completely revised recruitment policy for the defence forces of the country. This has created quite a ruckus across the country igniting violence.
The Indian government on 14th June 2022 approved a highly ambitious and dramatic recruitment scheme for the Indian youth to serve in the armed forces of the country, which is dubbed as Agnipath scheme and the youth selected under this scheme is bound to be known as Agniveers. While this comes as a massive change in the conventional recruitment system for the Indian armed or defence force, it has created a huge ruckus across the country with people protesting violently.
While the government and ruling party claims Agnipath will allow patriotic and motivated youth to serve in the armed forces for a period of four years, a segment of experts has dubbed it as playing with fire. According to protesters, this policy is meant to take away their chance of employment in the national defence force, for which they have been aspiring and preparing for quite a long. From north to south, east to west of the country – the self-proclaimed defence force aspirants have been protesting violently. Several trains have been burnt, government properties have been vandalised, roads have been blocked and even people have died in the process.
India is one of the countries where a large number of people get employed by the defence forces every year. Hence, the desire to join the defence force has been strong among the youth of the country for a very long time. Every year, around 60,000 defence personnel retire from the forces, which results in huge recruitment drives by the forces. The defence forces organize more than 100 rallies for open recruitment for these vacant posts every year.
What and why is Agnipath?
The government claims the Agnipath scheme has been designed to enable the armed forces to have a youthful profile. Also, this is claimed to provide an employment opportunity to the youth who may be keen to join the armed force. The government also hopes that it will attract the young talent to join the defence force who are more in tune with contemporary technological trends and plough back skilled, disciplined and motivated manpower into the society. It further claimed that it will help the defence force with a tech-savvy youthful workforce, which is the need of the hour.
The scheme is claimed to bring down the average age profile of the Indian armed forces by about 4-5 years. Besides that, it is also claimed to make the armed force fitter and have a more diverse profile for facing future challenges. Besides men, women too will be inducted into the forces under this scheme. However, the educational qualification for Agniveers still remains in vogue for enrollment in various categories.
The scheme also states that the individuals, selected for enrolment in the armed forces as regular cadre, would require to serve for a further engagement for a period of a minimum of 15 years and would be governed by the existing terms and conditions of service of Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) or other ranks in the Indian Army and their equivalent in Indian Air Force and Indian Navy.
The government also claims that the country will immensely benefit from the infusion of highly inspired youth with the background of a short military service, who would come with a deeper understanding of self-discipline, diligence and focus that would be adequately skilled and will be able to contribute to other sectors. The government has announced that it would recruit 46,000 youth this year under the Agnipath scheme, who will be known as Agniveers. They are claimed to receive an attractive monthly package with risk and hardship allowances as applicable in the three service branches of the Indian defence force – Army, Airforce and Navy.
The Agniveers are also claimed to receive a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package upon completion of the proposed engagement period of four years. This ‘Seva Nidhi’ package is approximately Rs 11.71 lakh compensation that would aid the Agneeviers to pursue their future dreams without any financial pressure, which is normally the case for young people from the financially deprived strata of society. Also, the scheme claims that under the Agnipath policy, the defence force will retain 25% of the youth who joins the force.
Speaking about the scheme, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that the youth of the country will benefit from Agnipath, as they can be easily trained for new technology. he also claimed that the health and fitness level of the youth will also improve through this strategy. “Under the Agneepath scheme, efforts are being made to ensure that the profile of the Indian armed forces is as young as that of the Indian population,” he further added.
Why so much fuss about Agnipath and Agniveers?
The government has been receiving flak from various quarters of the society, including the politicians, former defence personnel and experts alongside the defence force job aspirants since it has proposed and introduced the Agnipath scheme. According to many, this ambitious scheme is bound to weaken the management capability of the armed forces and hence the government should refrain from compromising the dignity of the forces, tradition, prowess and discipline by revoking this policy.
Many believe that this scheme may deliver a message that the government considers the long service of soldiers as a burden, while according to many the rural youth would be affected by the scheme. According to some experts, the strategy is simply to abolish the conventional pension system and other retirement benefits for the retired defence personnel in order to reduce the financial expenditure burden.
This policy is claimed to create dissatisfaction among the youth, especially those who hail from rural areas. Such a policy could be fatal for the country’s future, believes some experts, as it could impact national security. Observers say that by introducing this scheme, the government has started toying with fire.
Bad economic policy, national security & more…
Many believe the Agnipath scheme is basically a direct fallout of the Indian government’s bad economic policy adopted over the last few years. The economic policy has resulted in the government thriving for cutting expenditure by opting for recruiting temporary staff in the defence forces, which is dangerous considering the national security interests. A contractual role of four years without long-term commitment can damage the morale of the recruits as well.
There are multiple questions being raised from various quarters of the society regarding the Agnuipath scheme. With no guarantee of securing a job in any armed forces of the country, what if the trained Agniveer recruits get involved in anti-social activities? What if the arch-rival countries like Pakistan and China try to use them against India for unlawful activities?
With even six months of training and four years of work experience in the defence forces, they will have the crucial details about the armed forces, security installations and other highly important and densities information. What if these details get leaked to the rival countries? Its murky water and an unsolicited approach to changing the conventional and highly sensitive issue of the defence force and its recruitment process could create long-term troubles which could be dangerous, believes many.
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