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On 14th June, 2022, the Defence Minister of India along with the Chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Airforce announced the rolling out a transformative military recruitment reform called the Agnipath Scheme. The Agnipath Scheme is recruitment model by which the youth can join Indian Armed Forces for below officer ranks on a four-year contractual basis.
The Central Government bears a huge bill when it comes to providing pensions to lakhs of veterans and defence civilians. As per the budget estimate of financial year 2022, a whopping 54% of the total defence budget was being spent on salaries and pensions. Leaving only a meagre 27% for capital outlay. This is the amount which is to be used for the advancement of technologies and procurement of new weapons for the Armed Forces.
Over the years, the share of pensions as part of the defence budget has seen a steady rise and capital outlay is on a steep decline. One of the biggest reasons for the increase in the share of pensions can be attributed to the One Rank One Pension (OROP) scheme which was implemented in 2015. According to this scheme, all defence personnel who retire at the same rank are granted a uniform pension, irrespective of the date of their retirement.
And this is where the Agnipath Scheme comes to the rescue. As per the Agnipath Scheme, 75% of the troops recruited will be demobilized after their four-year stint and only 25% of them will be retained in the forces and will be granted a commission to serve for a full term of another 15 years. And since a mammoth 75% of Agniveers will be discharged after four years and won’t be entitled to get any pension a huge lot would be saved
According to a rough calculation submitted by the Indian Army in 2020, by the implementation of the Agnipath Scheme, around Rs. 11.5 crores would be saved per sepoy. And thus, savings of just 1000 sepoys would amount to savings of a massive Rs. 11,000 crores, which in turn can be used for modernization and advancement of the forces. And doing so is the very need of the hour considering our standoff with China.
The Kargil Review Committee which was set up three days after the Kargil War ended and had recommended reducing the average of the troops stating that the forces need to be fit at all times for enhancing their efficiency. The Agnipath Scheme will do so by reducing the average of the troops from 32 to 26.
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Terms of Service
Under this scheme, girls and boys between 17.5 to 21 years of age are eligible to apply to the three branches of the Indian Armed Forces- Army, Navy and Air Force. A relaxation of 2 years up till the age of 23 years has been given for all the recruitment drives happening in 2022. This has come as a relief to those candidates who couldn’t get recruited in the past two years as recruitment drives had been suspended because of Covid-19. The first Agnipath rally recruitment will be conducted in September/October 2022 and registrations for the same have already begun from 24th June, 2022. In the first year (2022), the centre is looking forward to hire 46,000 Agniveers. Out of which 34,000 will leave the service in 2026. Out of the four-year stint, the first 6 months would be utilized for training the Agniveers.
In the first year, the salary package provided would be Rs. 4.76 lakhs which will subsequently rise up to Rs. 6.92 lakhs in the fourth year. Apart from this, 30% of their salaries will be deducted every month for the Seva Nidhi Corpus. And by the end of their four-year tenure, the Centre will add an equal amount from their side which will amount to Rs. 11.77 lakhs which will be rewarded to each Agniveer. And to top it all, this amount granted would be completely tax-free. A non-contributory death and disability insurance of Rs. 48 lakhs would also be permitted during the Agniveer’s service.
After Four Years?
The Armed Forces inculcates discipline, mannerism, chivalry and persistence which is very much needed in each and every industry of the 21st century. The 75% Agniveers that will be demobilized after their four-year stint would be provided with ample employment opportunities. Like an airman in the IAF trained as a radar technician can be employed in the airline industry. Similarly, a naval recruit can join the merchant navy.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has announced a reservation of 10% for the Agniveers in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and the Assam Rifles. They will also get priority in getting employed in the police and allied forces of several states. Those wishing to study further will be receiving a class 12 equivalent certificate. Apart from this, The Union Ministry of Education is also set to launch a special three-year skill-based degree program that will recognize the skill training imparted to the Agniveers during their tenure in the forces.
Those who wish to become entrepreneurs will be given priority and preference while availing bank loans to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Corporate tycoons like Anand Mahindra, Kiran Mazumdar Shaw and N Chandrasekaran have already recognized the potential of Agniveers and are very much welcoming the move to employ them in the corporate after their tenure in the Indian Armed Forces.
The biggest challenge is to induct and retain quality manpower. Those aspirants who want to join forces will now go for other options first like the paramilitary, police force, etc. so armed forces will not get quality manpower in the very first place. Armed forces are the first choice till now but now many will avoid taking chance and look for other options first like what is mentioned earlier.
Secondly, in 4 years there will be 6 months of training and 4 months of leave so in 3 years soldier isn't mature to take robust decisions which are needed in defence forces.
Moreover, aspirants are not guaranteed a reservation in other forces till now so there is no credibility. Even if we look at the data, many ex-servicemen are denied their right of reservation.
Lastly, some aspirants struggled to join forces, took loans and cleared every phase of procedure just waiting for joining letter, felt cheated as their whole hard work is in vain as old process cancelled.