Opinion

Agnipath – A Controversial Scheme

By Aaron S John

Introduction

On 14th June 2022, the Defence Minister of India Rajnath Singh introduced the Agneepath recruitment scheme. Ever since then, this scheme has been under constant scrutiny, as well as others who believe this to be a step towards the promotion of the Indian Armed forces. This is not the first time that there has been a situation in which there are conflicting opinions about a particular act or a scheme. The soldiers hired for 4 years, will be called Agniveers. The Agniveers will be employed for 4 years following which they will be asked to leave. Later, they will not be provided with any perks or benefits that are usually provided to full-time army forces. The magnifier’s duration for employment will be temporary and the maximum duration will be of 15 years, which will only be provided for 25% of the soldiers. Many are against this scheme as they believe that this will kill the prestige of the Indian armed forces as well as the whole armed force change from what it was initially intended for. As it is in place for keeping the country and its citizens safe and not to earn profits. Due to this reason, there were nationwide protests, and a lot of public property was destroyed by the revolts. But then, also many believe that this scheme will bring the annual budget spent on, pension and in turn, help forces use their budget in a more organized manner and the same can be invested in the research and designing of military technology that will help India in a situation of war.

What is the Scheme?

The idea behind the Agnipath scheme is that a total of 46,000 magnifiers will be recruited in a year for four years and when this period ends these Agnivers will be relieved of their duties.  

According to the Agnipath plan, 46,000 magnifiers will be hired over the course of four years in total, and after that time, they will be relieved of their tasks. This scheme will be followed in all the armed forces and the recruits will be trained accordingly concerning the skills that are required. The scheme focuses on the youth of society who are interested in serving the nation. The main goal of Agneepath is to employ young and smart soldiers on the field compared to old soldiers.

Those who are in support of this scheme argue that this is a guaranteed job for 4 years and it is an easy way of earning money when jobs are scarce. They also argue that after quitting the service, the discipline and training provided by the Indian armed forces will help the person get a job in his or her mid-20s. Agneepath scheme promises to recruit 50,000 soldiers per armed force and the agniveers will receive a certificate when they leave the service.

Pros-

The agneeveers under the Agneepath scheme have been promised that many educational institutions will offer them jobs as soon as they leave the services of the armed forces. Many educational institutions will promise the agneeveers under the Agneeparh scheme work as soon as they leave the military forces, it has been stated.

The Agneepath scheme is considered to be the best way through which an individual can serve the nation for a limited period wherein they can work for the nation as well as do something else after the armed services.

After joining the armed forces, the soldiers will be less prone to making wrong choices. Many retired army officers claim that all soldiers are trained in such a way that they will not make any wrong decisions.

The scheme promises to pay the amount of 10 or 11 lakhs for any of the soldiers who got injured during the end of the tenure.

The Government of India also states that the agniveers will be given priority to any other force they will join after leaving the service. Some states have already declared that they will give the Agniveers preference over the normal candidates in state government jobs.

To promote the Agneepath scheme, the Agniveers will be provided with low-interest loans to help them kickstart their second career.

It is also said by many retired army soldiers that in a time of war, all the trained Agniveers can resume that duty of soldiers in no time and this will help the country to fight in a better way.

The agniveers will not be getting any pension after their services are over. This means at the extra money can be used for building a proper defense as well as improving the military technology of the country.  After the employment is complete, the Agniveers will not receive any pension. This means that the extra funds can be used to develop a strong defense and advance the nation’s military technology.

Many also believe that this concept of temporarily joining the army is being followed in many countries and it is about time that India followed the same. This strategy will not only help in saving the budget of Indian army forces but also help the budget to be used in military advancements, which is essential.

Agnipath Scheme Details- Latest Updates

Revised Age Limit- The upper age limit for Agniveers has been revised to 23 years.

Reservation- The government has announced a 10% reservation for ‘Agniveers’ in central police forces & Assam Rifles with upper age relaxation. The Defence Ministry also came up with a 10% quota which will cover the Coast Guard, defence civilian posts, and 16 defense PSUs, which include major ones like Hindustan Aeronautics, Bharat Electronics, as well as four shipyards and 41 ordnance factories.

Training- As per Army Chief General Manoj Pande, the training of first agniveers will begin this December (in 2022) at the centers.

The Shipping ministry announces 6 attractive service opportunities for Agniveers from the Indian Navy for a smooth transition into the Merchant Navy.

Cons-

  • Many argue that the Agneepath scheme will now provide any experience and nothing can be gained under such a short duration. This can be very harmful to the soldiers during the on-field assignments as 4 years is a very short amount of duration to master the skills required in a war situation. Many contend that the Agneepath method won’t provide any experience going forward and that nothing can be learned in such a brief period of time. As 4 years is a fairly little time to learn the skills needed in a combat situation, this might be very destructive to the soldiers during their on-field deployments.
  • No facilities are available for the agniveers after retirement, while the facilities that are provided for the permanent commission officers will demotivate the agniveers.
  • Some claim that the Agnipath scheme was introduced by the government just to create jobs in a very short duration in the future for use during elections.
  • One of the other main concerns of the Agniveers is – how their mental state will be knowing that they will have to remain jobless after their four years of service is over finding jobs, especially in an overpopulated country like India without a degree is hard. Also, there will be no pension provided to them, unlike a permanent service commissioned soldier. 
  • Another main complaint is that the Agniveers do not have any kind of job security available with them and after 4 years they will be left helpless without a degree and they will be thrown in the market to fetch jobs, which will be very difficult for them.

Other features of this scheme

Who can apply to the scheme?

Men and women both who are between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 can be recruited for the armed forces. Armed forces recruitment is open to both men and women between the ages of 17 and a half and 21. After 4 years they will be called the Agniveers and based on their merit, organization, requirements, etc. 25% of the Agniweers will be eligible to continue for another 15 years. The main idea is that the youth of society will be able to contribute to and help their country for either a long duration of time or a short duration of time.

Agneepath scheme eligibility

For all the three armed forces, i.e. the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force, there will be a centralized online system that will be used as a central database, and the interested candidates can apply via the same. Further, there will be campus interviews that will be organized and held in recognized technical colleges such as the Industrial Training Institute and the National Skills Qualification Framework. The enrolment procedures will be conducted in India on an all-class basis. As mentioned before, the eligibility age will be 17 and a half to 21 years of age. All the soldiers who will clear the medical requirements for the military will be eligible under the scheme and the minimum educational requirement is class 10 to become a General Duty Soldier. It has been recommended that the soldiers at least complete their 10 + 2 before applying.

Salary

The salary of  Agniveers has already been discussed by the Defence Minister of India. It is stated as 4.76 lakh that could be increased to up 6.92 lakhs by the end of the fourth year. There is also 48 lakh insurance cover that has been provided to every Agniveer. This is noncontributory, so this will not be cut from the payment of the agneeveer and they also will be provided with the Agniveer skill certificate that will help them find another job after leaving the armed forces.

Terms of service

Out of the Agniveers, 25% of the soldiers will be eligible to serve another term of 15 years. This will be based on the merits of the particular soldier as well as our willingness and medical fitness. The other 75% of the agniveers will be mobilized and given an exit or a Sevanidhi that is worth up to 11 to 12 lacs, which will be collected from their salary gradually. To assist them to settle into their second career, they will also receive a talent certificate and a few additional benefits including easier access to bank loans. Finally, they will also get a skill certificate and a few other perks such as ease of bank loans to help them get settled in the second career.

My opinion

In my opinion, the Agneepath scheme can still use an expert’s advice as well and can be improved. According to me, rather than being influenced by western cultures and implementing schemes without much thought behind them directly in India will do more harm than good. To visualize, India wants to use this policy to reduce its expenditure on the pension, but this internally backfires as training soldiers for such a short duration of 4 years is very dangerous as they will be very green and will not have the necessary skills that are required. This in turn will make them more of a liability than an asset.

This scheme sounds very promising and helpful, but quite honestly, while in execution it is not going to work out. As there is still uncertainty concerning what the Agniveers will do after quitting the service as jobs are promised, but no one is going to offer jobs to 23 or 25-year-olds without a College degree. Doing this will kill the whole prestige of the armed forces by training soldiers for such a short duration of time and not providing any perks or benefits after service. This can also be compared with other aspects, such as why some government officials get a pension for their entire life even though they have just been elected to a position that they have served for a few years. This argument was used to counter the point of not providing pensions for the agniveers.

Moreover, many also believe that this scheme will fail to employ as this is just getting more and more people into the armed forces rather than training them for combat or a war-like situation and the government is just doing this to show that the employment rate is increasing and that the government has been providing employment for its youth.

My suggestion would be that, rather than implementing it as a scheme, it should be implemented as an act that will have many sections mentioned. It will provide proper clarity that can be followed and, in case of any ambiguity, this act can be referred to for any clarification. Now, this has been implemented as a scheme and if there is any dispute about this in the future, it will be a very complicated task to solve. I also feel that there are different ways through which the armed forces can reduce its expenditure, as getting more people into the armed forces and training them will also require a certain amount of expense, hence, it is counterproductive. The Government of India can find better ways to reduce the extra expenditure on the pension. 

Conclusion

On paper, this does sound like the revolution that is required for the armed forces in India but yet has to be completely developed rather than implemented all across India. It seems like an interesting step towards expanding the Indian soldiers, but it will be useless if they are not trained accordingly. More than providing employment, the sole aim of the government should be focused on the type of training the soldier receives, as the armed forces are established to protect the country rather than act as a form of employment for everyone.

Categories: Opinion

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s