Govt tries to allay concerns on Agnipath amid raging protests

Updated on Jun 17, 2022 05:00 AM IST

The government also said that fears about the new scheme weakening existing bonding in regiments are unfounded, and that it was introduced only after extensive consultations with serving military officers carried out over a period of two years.

Security personnel detain Indian Youth Congress (IYC) members during their 'Mashal March' against government's newly introduced 'Agnipath' scheme, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)
Security personnel detain Indian Youth Congress (IYC) members during their 'Mashal March' against government's newly introduced 'Agnipath' scheme, at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on Thursday. (PTI)
ByNeeraj Chauhan

The government on Thursday sought to address concerns raised about and criticism of its new Agnipath scheme for recruitment of enlisted men and women from those aspiring for a career in the armed forces as well as veterans concerned about the potential fallout.

The clarification from senior government officials came even as aspirants seeking a career in the army protested in many parts of north and northwest India. The Agnipath scheme, the only one for recruitment of non-officer cadre men and women into the armed forces, but for only four years. At the end of this period, 25% will be absorbed.

Also Read| Future of Agniveers not insecure, senior military officials consulted: Govt

The remaining 75%, the government clarified, have no reason to be insecure about their future.

Those who want to start an enterprise will be eligible for bank loans; those who wish to study further, will be given a Class 12 certificate (the education ministry announced the modalities for this on Thursday); and those wishing to be employed will be given preference in positions in the central armed police forces, and state police. On Thursday evening, the finance ministry met executives at state-owned banks to discuss ways to find employment for the Agniveers, as those recruited under the new scheme will be called.

To be sure, all these recruitments will be against openings, and there is no guarantee that all Agniveers will find employment.

The government still has a task on its hand, convincing aspirants who have waited for over two years for the armed forces to restart recruitment (regular hiring camps were suspended during the pandemic).

The new recruitment scheme has also been criticised by veterans on several fronts, and the government sought to address each of these.

Some veterans have said that this process could affect the effectiveness of the armed forces. The government’s counter is that similar short-term elistment schemes exist in many countries; that the number of Agniveers recruited in the first year would make up only 3% of the armed forces; and that only the best of them will be retained after four years.

What the scheme will achieve, the government pointed out, is to increase the proportion of young people in the forces gradually, to 50%, and ensure a balance.

The government officials cited above also rubbished fears of a militarised society with Agniveers who do not find employment turning to other avenues. Young people who have served the country for four years are unlikely to turn against it, they pointed out.

The government also said that fears about the new scheme weakening existing bonding in regiments are unfounded, and that it was introduced only after extensive consultations with serving military officers carried out over a period of two years.

“The proposal has been framed by the Department of Military Officers staffed by military officers. The department itself is a creation of this government. Many former officers have recognised the advantages of the scheme and welcomed it,” the officials said.

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