Reasons behind widespread protest against the Agnipath Scheme

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Reasons behind widespread protest against the Agnipath Scheme

Large-scale violence by distressed youth broke out in many parts of India, notably in States such as Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, and Telangana

  • These states contribute a sizable manpower to the armed forces
  • Protests emerged after the centre announced a new scheme of recruitment of jawans, personnel below officer ranks (PBORs), to the three wings.

About the Agnipath Scheme

  • Agnipath or Tour of Duty will be the only mode of recruitment of soldiers, sailors, and airmen from now on.
  • Age limit: It envisages enlisting youths aged between 17.5 years and 21 years ,the upper limit has been extended to 23 years this year after protests for a period of just four years, also counting their training time.
  • At the expiry of their contract, only 25% of these soldiers, to be known as Agniveers, will be re-enlisted for regular military service.
  • Salary: While the salary package of Agniveers will be around ₹4.76 lakh in the first year which can go up to ₹6.92 lakh in the fourth year
  • These short-term soldiers will also be offered a contributory severance package besides non-contributory death and disability compensation.
  • Pension provisions : They will not be eligible for pension or gratuity.
  • Significance: it would offer a three-year degree programme to these enlistees in order to make them employable once out of service.

Benefits of the scheme

  • Younger armed forces: According to the three Service chiefs, this ‘transformational’ initiative will make the forces lean and much younger, with the average age of the soldier brought down to about 25 from the present 32 years.
  • More scope for capital acquisition: It will also ensure the availability of a larger share of budget outlay for capital expenditure for the acquisition of hi-tech equipment and platforms because the outlay for pension payout will drop considerably over time.
  • Discipline to the soldiers as civilians: Military training at a young age would make these men returning to the civilian world more disciplined and employable.
  • Adopted after studying procedures in other countries: the military recruitment procedures in many countries such as the U.S., Russia, the U.K., Israel, France and Germany were extensively studied over the past two years before formulating the scheme for Indian conditions.

Reasons behind strong protests across States

  • Scores of veterans have flayed the scheme as an effort to scrimp and save on revenue expenditure at the expense of the forces’ operational efficiency or fighting capabilities.
  • Short time: Four years is too short a time for a conscript to acquire the skills essential for operating sophisticated systems in the technology-intensive Navy and Air Force.
  • Impairment of Cohesiveness: For the Army, which has a regimental system, it is feared to impair the unit’s cohesiveness as the soldier on a short-term contract could remain ‘risk-averse’.
  • Militarisation of society: it will lead to the militarisation of society.
  • It is unfair to the potential recruit as well, as the absence of a continued employment guarantee at the expiry of four years when he’s still in his 20s and without the skillsets or credentials required to make the cut in the civilian/corporate world, could be demoralising.
  • Agnipath cuts at the root of social security and dignity that have lured rural Indian youth to the military fatigue

Way Forward

  • The Centre has stated unequivocally its resolve to go ahead with the reform even after the ongoing protests and reservations expressed by a chunk of military veterans
  • The Army and the Air Force have announced their recruitment plans and the Navy is expected to follow suit.
  • It remains to be seen if amendments such as the extension of their initial service period and mandatory re-enlistment of at least 50% of Agniveers recommended by some veterans would be considered to finetune the scheme.

Exam Track

Prelims takeaway

  • Agniveers
  • Agnipath scheme

Mains track

Q. Discuss about the recently announced Agnipath scheme, its benefits and concerns of the protesters.