JAMMU, June 15: Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Air Marshal Sreekumar Prabhakaran today said that the newly launched “Agnipath” scheme for the recruitment of soldiers into the armed forces is a stepping stone for the youngsters to be better citizens and will also help the three services in the long run. However, the officer stated that it is premature to say whether the scheme will stop radicalization of the youth in Jammu and Kashmir or not.
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The Air Marshal was addressing a press conference at Air Force Station, Jammu during which he threw light on the features of ‘Agnipath’ scheme. When asked whether the ‘Agnipath’ scheme will help overcome radicalization of youth in Kashmir, he said “whether it will stop radicalization or not I cannot answer now till the scheme is implemented.”
“Only time will tell us about that but I am quite sure that if a youngster who has, as you said, got brainwashed (into terrorism), joins the services under the scheme and stays with us for four years, I am sure he will be a different person and probably more of an Indian than a radical as you brought out,” the Commander said.
Tn a question whether there will be a special recruitment drive in J&K under the Scheme, he said the Scheme is an open scheme for all the three services across the country. “We would like every youth from all parts of the country to apply for the scheme which is open, transparent and provides equal opportunity to all,” he said, adding this will be the only scheme for the entry into the armed forces of the country as it will be difficult to manage two different schemes for the services.
Asked about his message for the youth of Jammu and Kashmir, the Western Air Commander said it is a great opportunity which the youth are getting so they should apply, try and join any of the three services for four years. He said ‘Agnipath’ scheme is a transformative reform in the armed forces recruitment process which will not only a youthful profiling of the armed forces but also provide a platform for the youth to don the military uniform and become confident and disciplined citizens.
“The Agniveers will be imparted military skills and experience that will instill discipline, leadership qualities and patriotism among the Agniveers apart from military skills and experience,” he said, adding, this scheme will bring about a transformational shift towards a more tech savvy armed force in the country and will provide an opportunity to the youth tuned with the contemporary technological trends.
The Commander informed that the enrolment for Agniveers will be based on ‘All India All Class’ basis and the eligible age will be from 17.5 to 21 years. Agniveers will meet the medical eligibility conditions laid down for enrolment in the armed forces as applicable to respective categories/trades, he added.
Prabhakaran also informed the media that the Agniveers will be offered an opportunity to apply for permanent enrolment in the Armed Forces as 25% of each specific batch of Agniveers will be enrolled in regular cadre of the Armed Forces for which applications will be considered in a centralized manner based on objective criteria including performance during their four-year engagement period.
With respect to the monetary benefits, the officer informed that the Agniveers will be provided with the attractive financial package for four years. He further informed that on completion of the engagement period of four years, Agniveers will be paid one time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package of approximately Rs 11.71 lakh which shall comprise their contribution including accrued interest thereon and matching contribution from the Government equal to the accumulated amount of their contribution including interest.
Responding to a question about criticism from different quarters including opposition parties and ex-servicemen to the new scheme, Prabhakaran said everybody has a right to make his or her own comments.
“When there is some change, there is always going to be some hiccups. The Agnipath scheme has not come out suddenly out of blue but there was a lot of discussion at the senior officers’ level from IAF, Navy and Army for about two years. The Government supported the idea,” he said, adding “in any scheme, there lies pros and cons so we have considered all that but we feel it is overall a wonderful scheme which will help the services in the long run.”