Agnipath recruitment scheme: Government must come clean on forcing new policy

avatar Col Dinesh Kumar (R) Thursday 23rd of June 2022 09:32 PM

An Indian Army patrol in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. (Representational photo)

Agnipath, the government’s new four-year-recruitment scheme for all personnel of the Indian the armed forces – Army, Navy, and Air Force – below officer rank is now officially notified. Many veterans have come out against it, some calling the scheme to be “harebrained” and some calling it as a “death knell” for the Indian military. This author has also previously criticized the government for pushing through this scheme. To continue further discussion on the scheme, it is important to ask the government a few important questions.

  • What was the need for this scheme?
  • Were the opposition parties taken into confidence before implementing it?
  • Was it ever discussed in Parliament?
  • Were the youth, the ones who were affected, informed via election rallies, or Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s radio talk “Mann ki Baat”?
  • Were the three services consulted before announcing and notifying the scheme?

The answers to the above are well known but it is incumbent on the part of the government to clarify.

Now, coming on to the scheme proper which mainly has two distinct parts which need scrutiny. They are:

  • Training and deployment of the Agniveers (the new rankles recruits as they would be called) for four years which means it is a contract job.
  • Rehabilitation of 75% of these Agniveers who will be released after completing four years of service in the armed forces.

As it stands now, the youngsters selected under this scheme, will undergo basic military training for six months, after which they will be sent to the respective units.

Under the erstwhile recruitment scheme, recruits selected after due process,were trained  in the centres for almost one year where they were provided basic training. Once they successfully completed the training, they were sent to the units for further training. One wonders what training shall be given in six months.

By the time the recruit reaches the unit, one year is almost over given the fact that he is granted leaves, etc. In the unit he is trained on his trade, unit history n achievements, arms and the way to conduct with the immediate superiors and officers. It is here that he is explained what “Naam, Namak, Nisan” is all about and its importance. Normally a recruit undergoes two to three years of rigorous training to become a soldier. Agnipath gives a recruit only three-and-half to four years to become a soldier. How will it happen? This miracle can only be explained by the government. In these years in the unit, he may be deployed in the forward areas, and how he would react to an adverse situation remains unknown, given the lack of training, which includes mental toughening. Apart from this, how will an Agniveer be trained to handle specialized equipment and vehicles? The military brass in news conferences have stated that the services would train them and make them “tech savvy”. However, they did not say how they would do it in such a short period.

In fact, the news conferences by the military brass trumpeting the virtues of this scheme throws more questions than answers. One very pertinent question is what happens to the youngsters who cleared their physical and medical tests under the old scheme and were waiting for the written examination which was repeatedly getting postponed purportedly due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The armed forces have categorically stated that now the recruitment will only be through the Agnipath scheme. Who will explain why these youngsters are being punished for no fault of theirs.

What about the fate of the 75% of released Agniveers?

It has been conveyed that those 75% Agniveers who are not retained, will be provided jobs as under:

  • 10% reservations in central armed police forces (CAPFs).
  • Will get preference in corporate jobs.

This is nothing but a false promise. The existing percentage of ex-servicemen to be given job in CAPFs is as it is 24.5 % out of which only 4.8% have been employed. If that has not been honoured, what is the guarantee of this 10%?

The jobs in the corporate sector is a mirage. Statistics have it that very few ex-servicemen are given jobs, mostly in corporate security. A senior BJP leader went on record to say that he would give preference to a released Agniveer for the job is a security guard at a BJP office. This unwittingly revealed what most leaders in the ruling party think the worth of a released Agniveer.

There are many disadvantages under the Agnipath policy for the new recruits under the scheme. There will be no gratuity and no pension for them. They would not be eligible for medical facilities or canteen facilities too.

It is also not clear whether the Agniveer if employed after his release from the military, will get his last pay drawn in his fourth year in service, that is Rs 40,000 or more? Will the recruiting CAPF or corporation will pay this amount?

Therefore, it is very clear that these promises too are hoax.

Above observations are just a few drops in the ocean. There seems to be some reason(s) behind rushing through this scheme that the government is trying to hide.

It would have been much better if the government had brought this scheme after due process of discussion with various stakeholders involved. It has shown arrogance and implemented a flawed scheme. It is evident from the fact that the government made three amendments in this scheme within three days of announcing it.

If everything is clear and transparent, will the government clarify the following?

  • Why the scheme brought in without proper procedures, like after a discussion in Parliament, or the Parliament’s defence committee?
  • Why against the set norms the military was forced to announce when it was the government’s brainchild?
  • If the scheme was so foolproof, why three amendments within three days of its announcement?
  • Why did the military announce that it will train the Agniveers so well so that the Adanis and the Tatas will happily employ them? Is the Indian military a training organization for corporates?
  • Why were the corporate honchos made to say that they will employ released Agniveers when the records show that they have failed to employ ex-servicemen earlier?
  • Why people, like Baba Ramdev and Sri Sri Ravishanker, praising this scheme when they know nothing about military.

It is safe to assume that this scheme was brought in by this government exhibiting undue haste, which makes it almost inevitable to wonder whether there is something more to it than what meets the eye. One thing is clear that the government wants to stop the gratuity and pension in the armed forces so save costs. It is laughable as there are massive expenditure incurred by the government on advertising, foreign trips, five pensions to politicians and massive perks to them and bureaucrats. The humongous corporate loans that are routinely written off too are also a sore point.

To sum it up, big majority this government enjoys in Parliament must not make it so arrogant that it fails to honour the Constitution. It must not forget that in a democracy, involvement of one and all is important in finalizing schemes that have national ramifications.

The Indian military, which has arguably the finest soldiers in the world, never recruited personnel on a contract basis. If forced to fight wars with half-motivated, half-trained soldiers hired for a short period without a concrete rehabilitation plan after their release, it will seriously jeopardize the effectiveness of the armed forces. The government must take back this flawed Agnipath scheme at the earliest. If at all it wants to experiment, it should begin with a pilot project first.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of India Sentinels.

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