Guest column | Agnipath to blaze way for lean, mean, modern army

Published on Jun 26, 2022 02:38 AM IST

The controversial Agnipath Scheme, which lays down a four-year contractual engagement for soldiers without a pension, has generated exhaustive debates and intense protests across the country

At present, the job market is such that a Class-12 graduate has limited opportunities at his disposal. Even a <span class='webrupee'>₹</span>8,000 job at call centres is being usurped by graduates. (HT File)
At present, the job market is such that a Class-12 graduate has limited opportunities at his disposal. Even a 8,000 job at call centres is being usurped by graduates. (HT File)
ByCol Avnish Sharma (retd)

The controversial Agnipath Scheme, which lays down a four-year contractual engagement for soldiers without a pension, has generated exhaustive debates and intense protests across the country. However, the scheme is here to stay, and as the former commanding officer of an armoured regiment (a perfect blend of men, machinery technology, and tasks), I for one, am for it.

A commanding officer is responsible for everyone and everything in his unit, ranging from warfare to the welfare of around 700-1,000 personnel of all ranks, trades, castes, creeds, and backgrounds, and as such, I may be able to provide some insight into grassroots-level soldiering. Here’s why the scheme is the need of the hour:

On-the-job training

The reduced training period under the scheme has raised several eyebrows. However, the training curriculum for the armed forces has not been changed for decades, but there has been a sea change in the intellect, and awareness of inductees. Good army units run with on-the-job training cadres with modern training facilities, relying primarily on the basic training imparted at training centres. A soldier is groomed in his unit, where the commanding officer separates the wheat from the chaff. In the case of Agniveers, an intense training capsule at the unit level has been envisaged, with pruning of training centres in terms of manpower and funds, which can now be diverted to units. The atmosphere in the unit is conducive to growth, professionalism, and performance. Those found to be more amenable and motivated are likely to be retained, and consolidated efforts, energy, and resources may be focused on them. This will make the unit, a basic fighting force, more potent.

Exit option for disgruntled, and unfit Agniveers

During my command, I came across a lot of jawans who wished for discharge (premature retirement) after 15 years (pensionable service). At the record office, a plethora of discharge applications remain pending. The reasons for the same are a hard life in the forces, domestic compulsions, and the desire for a white-collared job in Civvy Street. Mind you, the majority of these disinterested volunteers come from humble backgrounds without much to fall back on after leaving the army. So, they are anyway rendered unemployed at the age of 35 years. Now, a disinterested or disillusioned Agniveer will be able to exit after four years with the world waiting for him.

Jobs for the youth

At present, the job market is such that a Class-12 graduate has limited opportunities at his disposal. Even a 8,000 job at call centres is being usurped by graduates. Through the scheme, an Agniveer will get a job, which will discipline them, provide them reasonable remuneration and a sea of opportunities, all by the age of 25. Our country is grappling with rampant unemployment, and a respectable albeit short-term engagement is likely to give direction to the youth. After they retire from the forces, governments, corporates, and society at large will be waiting to absorb them into the workforce.

Reducing pension bill

The scheme’s detractors say it has been rolled out to reduce the pension bill, which amounts to almost half of the defence budget, to which I say: Why not? At present, the jawans, who retire or quit between the age of 33-37 keep getting a pension till eternity for no active service rendered! Imagine the savings accrued in the case of Agniveers! If this saved money is diverted towards modernisation, this would mean a lean and mean army.

avnishrms59@gmail.com

(The writer is a Chandigarh-based freelance contributor)

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