After the farm laws repeal BJP government landed in another mess. This time it is Jawan. Hundreds of protesters blocked National Highway and burned tires demanding the scrapping of the scheme. Hundreds of defence force aspirants lying down on tracks protesting against the centre’s ‘Agnipath’ scheme that seeks to recruit soldiers on a short-term contract. The new policy has drawn criticism and questions from several quarters, including a section of veterans. Critics have argued that a four-year tenure will hit fighting spirit in the ranks and make them risk-averse.
The aspirants demand to increase the service period of new recruits to a min of seven years and make the retention of those keen to serve longer at least 50 per cent. Agnipath, the tour of duty scheme, proposes the recruitment of jawans on a contractual basis for a four-year period followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits. The new recruitment plan aims to cut down the government’s massive salary and pension bills and free up funds for arms procurement.
Under the Agnipath scheme, about 45,000 people between the age of 17.5 years and 21 years will be inducted into the services for a four-year tenure. During this period, they will be paid a monthly salary between Rs 30,000-40,000 and allowances. They will also be entitled to medical and insurance benefits.
After four years, only 25 per cent of these soldiers will be retained and they will go on to serve for a full 15 years in non-officer ranks. The remaining will exit the services with a package between Rs 11 lakh – Rs 12 lakh, but won’t be eligible for pension benefits. Under the old system, youths aged between 16.5 and 21 years were selected for a minimum of 15 years of service and used to get a pension after retirement.
The new policy has drawn criticism and questions from several quarters, including a section of veterans. Critics have argued that a four-year tenure will hit fighting spirit in the ranks and make them risk-averse. The protesters said they had applied for some government jobs two to three years ago, but the examinations for the recruitment have not been conducted yet, and they have crossed the minimum eligibility age now.
Modi’s government has not solved unemployment issues in the country but they have forced the youth to go through their illogical schemes. 80 per cent of engineers and MBA students are jobless in-country, already India lacks think tanks and now they are messing up with arms forces.
The central government announced Agnipath’s scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force on a short-term contractual basis, apparently to cut the ballooning salary and pension bills and carve out a youthful profile of the armed forces. These short-term recruitments are seen as milling of watchmen and guards for corporate houses. Such recruitment and training are done with the hard-earned money of taxpayers.
Job security and pension are two major issues being cited by protesters. Under the previous system, troops joined for a 17-year period, which could be extended for some personnel, and it resulted in a lifelong pension.
The new scheme, however, envisages just a four-year tenure for most, and the Agniveers will not be eligible for pension benefits. This Agnipath scheme is just a placebo being given to unemployed youth. Even parents would now think twice before sending their sons to the Army just for four years.
Just imagine getting retired just after four years. It is nothing but playing with their emotions in the name of giving them some skills before they retire. Students want the old system back.
The anger is also being fueled by the two-year freeze on Army recruitment due to the pandemic. While recruitment under the Agnipath scheme will begin in 90 days, several aspirants who turned overage during the last two years are now seeking relaxation in age criteria. Bharti does, ya arthi do’, was one of the slogans raised as protests first began in Bihar. There used to be about 60,000 vacancies in the Army and other defence forces till two years ago.
There has been no recruitment for the last two years, and now the short duration of service on offer has angered the students… There are examples when students prepare for such exams for four years. Are they working hard to get a job just for four years and remain unsure about what they would do next?
Also, the Agnipath scheme envisions an “all India, all class” recruitment system.
Apprehensions have been voiced against how the new recruits will be adjusted in the existing system under which most of the Army units are region, caste or class-based.
Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
The new system is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers). The scheme is not optional as all personnel below officer rank will be hired only through this route from now on. Under the Agnipath scheme, aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 21 years will be eligible to apply.