Agnipath Scheme: Is It a Youth-centric Or An Anti-Youth Recruitment Scheme?

On June 14, the Ministry of Defence unveiled its ambitious plan of recruiting the young generation in any of the three branches of the Indian armed forces, namely the Indian Army, the Indian Air Force and the Indian Navy. The major defence policy reform says that the aspirants will be recruited on a short-term contractual basis and will be given a distinct rank of 'Agniveer'. You must note that the rank of Agniveers will be equivalent to that of Jawans and not of commissioned officers. The Agniveers would be recruited for non-commissioned ranks only. As soon as Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made the announcement after the approval of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, several armed forces aspirants came out on the streets to protest against the central government's Agnipath recruitment scheme. Why is the scheme so controversial? What is the recruitment scheme all about? Is it a full-proof way to serve your nation? Why has the country's youth been protesting against it? Will the Agnipath scheme solve the grave problem of unemployment in India? Well, I have studied the scheme to solve all your dilemmas before you think of forming a definite opinion about the Agnipath recruitment scheme! Let's dive right in.

What is The Agnipath Scheme?

As you all know, the Agnipath recruitment scheme has been created to encourage the 'youth of the country' to join the Indian armed forces, thus giving them the glorious opportunity to serve the nation. In the Agnipath scheme, youth aged between 17.5 years to 21 years* (age limit increased to 23 only for this year) will be recruited directly into the Indian armed forces. The recruits would only serve the Indian armed forces for four years, and the salary would range between Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000 per month. After the four-year tenure, only 25% of Agniveers would be retained in the regular cadre of the armed forces, and 75% would have to take compulsory retirement. To put it simply, if you are selected for the Agnipath recruitment scheme, the Government of India is sure shot giving you an employment lasting four years. However, after those four years, the government will only be giving you an 'opportunity' to apply for permanent enrolment in the armed forces. The Agniveers will also be entitled to a paid one-time SevaNidhi Package which comprises of a lumpsum amount of Rs 11.71 lakh (along with interest). They will also be given non-contributory life insurance cover of Rs 48 lakhs. You need to note down that the lumpsum amount will not be entirely given by the government of India but will comprise of 30% contribution that will be deducted from your salary. For example, if you are earning Rs 30,000/month, you would be getting only Rs 21,000 in hand and the rest of Rs 9000 would be contributed to the Agniveer Corpus Fund. The matching amount will be contributed by the government of India. As Agniveer, you would not be entitled to gratuity or pensionary benefits. Also, the medical insurance cover would only be given for the duration of the engagement period in the Indian armed forces. Apart from being recruited in the service for four years and only 25% being selected for permanent enrolment in the armed forces, all of the other criteria remain the same as applicable to respective categories/cadre. After the completion of the four-year term, the Agniveers would be awarded a 'Skill Certificate' based on the skills they acquire during their service in the armed forces. The Skill Certificate is expected to open opportunities for Agniveers in the civil world. While there is no doubt that an Agniveer would be inculcated with various military skills, physical fitness, and leadership qualities during their military training, it is still unclear as to whether those skills would help them get a job in any other government/private sectors. The reason behind that is the government has no yet cleared what exactly the skills would comprise of.

Is The Agnipath Scheme a Correct Way to Serve Your Nation?

The government of India has launched the Agnipath scheme with the intention of motivating patriotic and motivated youth to serve in the armed forces. At the same time, it also envisions a transformational shift towards a more tech-savvy armed forces. The recruitment scheme is definitely an excellent opportunity for youngsters to join the armed forces and have a direct chance to serve the nation. However, a question stands here: On an individual basis and as a patriot, you might give your 10000% during those four years of service, but what if, by any chance, you get to be a part of that 75%? Will all that courage and dedication help you in getting a job in the real world? Even if you do get a job, would you be able to do a sitting job after fighting the enemies on the front line? Wouldn't that be a waste of your determination to serve the nation and prove to be a significant loss for the country's armed forces?

What is the Intention of The Government Behind Launching the Agnipath Scheme?

The Indian government has launched the scheme mainly to motivate the youngsters of the country to join the armed forces and plough back skilled and disciplined manpower, especially into the defence sector. As per the government, the average age of the armed forces would come down by about 4-5 years, which currently stands at 32. The government also strives to cut down the pension expenditure, which eats up most of the country's defence budget. One counter argument being made by protestors is that why not cut the pensions of MLAs, MPs and other politicians? Here's a fact if you did not know: If a politician becomes MLA for even a single term, he/she is entitled to lifelong pensions along with other additional benefits.  The fact here raises another question: Is cutting down pensions of Agniveers the only way to reduce the pension expenditure, or are there better ways that the government can implement or at least think of?

What Is The Good And The Bad In The Agnipath Scheme?

Like many other government schemes, the Agnipath scheme has a great intention but poor implementation. While there are undoubtedly no justifications for the violent protests that the country is witnessing right now, the government of India can do better in communicating the features of the scheme. As 'quoted' by many army veterans, the silver lining in the Agnipath scheme is that it has been rushed, and no brainstorming has been done on how the scheme would practically get implemented. If one narrows down the pros and cons of the Agnipath Scheme, the pros would be - You do get to serve the nation and be a part of the armed forces. The scheme is also a great way to modernise the Indian Defence sector and be more 'tech-ready' for protecting the territorial integrity and national security of India. Cutting down on pension expenditure is also a relevant way of using that lumpsum amount in various other economic activities. However, if you look at the cons - The major drawback in the scheme is that the Agniveers will be left with 'No Job Guarantee', which is the most fundamental thing that an individual looks for while enrolling for any government job. It's almost like the essence of any government job! Another major disadvantage of the scheme is that there is still no clarification on how many skills an Agniveer would possess after completing his four years of service. As the Indian armed forces follow a voluntary approach when it comes to joining the services, will the Agniveers have the same determination and motivation to serve the forces even after knowing they can be a part of the retired 75%? The Agnipath Scheme raises a lot of questions which need to be answered. However, the government has no intention of backing down, and the recruitment process for the Agnipath scheme is scheduled to begin from June 24.

How Has The Government Reacted To The Protests?

Several armed forces aspirants have taken the streets to protest against the Agnipath Scheme. The protests have also turned violent in many states. After receiving massive backlash from aspirants, the government has relaxed the upper age limit by increasing it to 23 years for the recruitment cycle of this year. The Indian government aims to recruit over 40,000 candidates as Agniveers in 2022. Many government ministries have said that they will be exploring options to recruit future Agniveers, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, Defence Ministry, Union Finance Ministry, Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry and the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The government has also said that the Agniveers would be getting various kinds of support from the government to restart their lives in the form of education and business loans. List of Institutions, PSU's that would have separate reservations for Agniveers:
  • Indian Coast Guard
  • BSF
  • ITBP
  • SSB
  • CISF
  • CRPF
  • Assam Rifles
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL)
  • Bharat Electronics Limited
  • Bharat Dynamics Limited
  • BEML Limited
  • Mishra Dhatu Nigam Limited
  • Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited
  • Garden Reach shipbuilders and engineers limited
  • Goa Shipyard Limited
  • Advanced Weapons and Equipment Limited
  • Gliders India Limited
  • Troop Comforts Limited
  • Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited
  • Munitions India Limited
  • Yantra India Limited
  • India Optel Limited
  • Hindustan Shipyard Limited
  • Bel Optronic Devices Limited

Will Agnipath Scheme Help Address The Grave Unemployment Persisting In India?

Along with modernising the defence sector and making it youth-centric, the government also wants to address the growing unemployment rate in India through the Agnipath recruitment scheme. However, part and parcel of the story is that the Agnipath scheme only provides a temporary employment to the country's youth. It gives you the glorious opportunity to serve the country, but will it help improve India's unemployment rate? I will leave that answer to you! 

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