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Agnipath Scheme, radical scheme to recruit soldiers

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    29th Jun, 2022

Overview

  • About Agnipath Scheme
  • What it contains?
  • How it can help in defense sector
  • Significance
  • Challenges associated
  • Way ahead

Context

The government unveiled its new Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers across the three services.

Analysis

What is the Agnipath scheme?

  • Under the new scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers(called as ‘Agniveers’) will be recruited annually for a short period, and most will leave the service in just four years.
  • Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per centwill be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
  • Eligibility Criteria: The new system is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers).
  • Age limit: Aspirants between the ages of 5 years and 21 years will be eligible to apply. The recruitment standards will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.
  • Training: Once selected, the aspirants will go through training for six months and then will be deployed for three and a half years.

  • Salary allocation: During this period, they will get a starting salary of INR 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to INR 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
  • Employee benefits: 30% of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the Government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest.
    • At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get INR 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free.
  • They will also get a INR 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years. In case of death, the pay-out will be over INR 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
  • Pension: There shall be no entitlement to gratuity and pensionary

What is the significance of the Agnipath Scheme?

  • Employment for Youth: As only 25% recruits will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission. 
  • With the average age in the forces is 32 years today, It is expected to go down to 26 in 6 to 7 years with the implementation of the scheme.
  • Notably, the Indian army in 1978 was more youthful than at present at the level of Other Ranks (ORs), with sepoys comprising 72.6%of a total of 8,45,025 men. Today, the number of sepoys has fallen below 40%.
  • Reducing Defence Bill: A leaner force and reduced benefits will considerably decrease the defence bill, which has been a major concern for governments for many years.
  • This year’s Budget estimate on defense pension is INR 1,33,826 Crore which is 4.4% of total expenditure (0.6% of the GDP).
  • Pensions made up 28.4% of this year’s defense budget. Further, the saved money can be utilized to buy state-of-art technology and equipment which are the backbone of modern warfare.
  • All India, All Class Recruitment: The scheme will ensure ‘All India, All Class’ recruitment to the services. This is significant for the Army, where the regiment system has region and caste bases. These would be eliminated with time to allow anybody from any caste, region, class or religious background to become part of existing regiments.
  • Trained buffer youth: The ex-agniveers could act as an adhoc buffer force who may be called to serve again for boosting national security in times of external/internal threats.
  • Economic Benefits: The skills and experience acquired during the 4-year service will allow the soldiers to get employment in various fields. This will also lead to availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP growth.
  • Global Parity: All major militaries in the world are undergoing reform. There is a trend towards reduction in the number of personnel and emphasis on increasing capital expenditure on modern weapons and equipment.

Recent reform initiatives promulgated in defence sector

  • appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS)
  • establishment of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA)
  • announcement of several domestic industries—friendly procurement measures, particularly the
    • positive indigenisation list
    • the corporatisation of the Ordnance Factories (OFs) into seven DPSUs

What are the challenges associated with the Agnipath Scheme?

  • Exclusion of many students: The government hopes to hire 46,000 “agniveer” this year. Although with the age limits, the recruitment may not include those who have been waiting for the hiring freeze since 2020 to end. More than a lakh vacancies have built up in the Indian Army alone over the last two years, but under the new policy, not all may be filled.
  • Diversified regiments: The Indian Army’s experiments so far with diversity in closed regiments have yielded mixed results. There is a probability that the new scheme may do more harm than good in diversifying the static regiments.
  • Post-retirement concerns: The ex- agniveers may have to face hardships in getting employment after 4 years of service. Especially when meaningful employment opportunities in significant or adequate numbers still elude an ever-increasing number of graduates.
  • Further, ‘trained-to-kill’ soldiers being demobilized every year could prove dangerous if they remain jobless and frustrated.
  • Many believe it may lead to militarisation of society.
  • Short-duration training: Many experts believe that shorter duration service could compromise on training, morale and commitment in comparison to the permanent recruits. Critics argue that agniveers may turn out of to be risk-averse with the bulk looking to secure an alternate career.

What lies ahead?

  • Proper reallocation of soldiers in alternate services: The Government should help to rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. They can be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses that will help them in finding gainful employment.
  • Extension of Age-limit: The age limit set up by the government is so less as it will leave many students preparing for army and other defense services for long time.
  • Sensitization of beneficiaries: The society objects any sudden change and hence the government should handle this issue with care. The youth are future of our country and decisions related to them should be taken involving them and sensitize about the government’s perspective.

Conclusion

No reform can be fool-proof and without teething troubles. But as Agnipath Scheme concerns national defense and security, the Government will need to have a plan to anticipate and address the problems that lie beyond the bold step forward.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q1) Do you think the Agnipath Scheme is a radical departure from the previous recruitment policy and in the interest of the country’s defence preparedness.

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