Agnipath Groundcheck

Arnav Jandial
The Government on Tuesday announced the ‘AGNIPATH’ model of recruitment under which soldiers will be inducted into the three services for 4 years with a provision of retaining 25% of them for an additional 15 years following a selection process.
On completion of the engagement period of four years, Agniveers will receive a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package of about 11.4 lakh rupees. However, there shall be no entitlement to gratuity and pensionary benefits.
“Post this stint of four years, the Agniveers will be infused into the civil society where they can contribute immensely towards the nation building process.”
The introduction of the policy can be traced to the following reasons:
* To lower the average age profile in army. Through the implementation, the average age profile can be lowered by 4-5 years and thus the policy can enhance the youthful profile of the army.
* To reduce the pension load on the defense budget. The Indian defense budget is 5.25 lakh crore, of which 1.2 lakh crore is for the pension component let alone the salaries.
The policy thus eliminates the major concern of growing pension bill as to look forward to better management of defense budget.
* The money saved can be essentially, used up to build a modernized and a tech savvy army equipped with latest technologies.
A similar type of policy is prevalent in China, UKand the USA.
Thus, the overall objective of agnipath is to reduce manpower in army, buy more weapons and to raise a youthful and no pension army.
So what’s all the fuss about?
Following concerns are raised by the public through incessant and violent protesting:
* The job insecurity created by the scheme is a major reason behind the protest. The latter 75% of non-recruited soldiers would find it really hard to earn a respectable livelihood. The four-year military training will almost be useless in most of the private sector. The lack of any pensionary benefit would add to the financial stress.
* Many say that the eventual unemployed but trained youth can resort to crimes and become mercenaries. However less evidence is present to support this.
* Another strong argument was raised by the protesters that why are MLA’s and MP’s given lifelong pensions even if they hold the post for 1 term; when hardworking and dedicated soldiers are being deprived of this benefit.
NOTE: Its great that the youth is aware and protesting; however, resorting to violent means doesn’t present a solution to an problem. Around 700 crores worth of public property has been destroyed. Ultimately it is the common man who is affected.
GOI can make the following changes in the policy, so the scheme is seen as empowering rather than exploitative:
* The GOI should effectively communicate the main objective of the scheme which is to build a modernized army and to empower the youth.
* To further empower the youth, after the four-year training, a degree should be given to the soldiers; keeping in mind the skillset and discipline they acquire.
* The home minister, defense minister and the ministers of various states have announced different job opportunities reserved for agniveers. These promises should be codified, organized and compiled in an app/portal.
* 2019-2020 aspirants should be recruited via older processes. This would eliminate a major reason for protest.
* The percentage of non-recruited 75% should be absorbed in central forces and police state forces. The four years of training should be accounted for.
* The scheme should be made more transparent to eliminate doubts within the mind of an aspirant.
Through agnipath, GOI has tried to strike out a balance between fiscal realities and current promises. But underpaying the financial imperative for reform, GOI comes across as an imposer rather than a reformer.
The harsh reality is that even if the government reduces the training period to 2 years, lakhs of forms will still be filled. They just have no option because quality jobs in private sector are not available to non-privileged people. This is the reason armed forces are desired because they are reservation free, merit-based work with lifelong pension and medical cover. Thus, it is not surprising that widespread protests are seen for a recruitment scheme which employs less than 0.5 % gov workforce.