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ANALYSIS OF AGNIPATH SCHEME

INTRODUCTION

On 14th June 2022, the Government of India initiated the latest scheme named Agnipath (Agneepath) for establishing a new process to recruit personnel for Army, Navy, and Air force. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh revealed that the Agnipath scheme aims to transform the armed forces. The recruitment in the military will be only through this new scheme. The Agnipath will execute from September 2022.

According to this plan, nearly 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers would be recruited every year for the Indian Armed Forces[1]. Those who are aged between 17.5 and 21 years are eligible, but the higher age limit has been extended to 23 years for the year 2022. The personnel will be employed for four years called the engagement period which would consist of training of about six months and then service of 3.5 years. Selected candidates would be titled Agniveer and their duty would be of non-commissioned posts i.e. of the lower ranks The salary of the Agniveers would be around Rs. 30,000 per month for the first year which further increases to around Rs. 40,000 per month by the fourth year. By the end of the 4th year, the soldiers will get Rs. 11.71 lakhs as one time Seva Nidhi Package, 30% of which would be from the Agniveer’s monthly salary. Also will be entitled to a certificate by the government. During the engagement period of 4 years, they will also get an Rs. 48 lakh life insurance cover. Of all, only 25% of Agniveers will be picked in the regular cadre for full-time service of another 15 years based on merit, willingness, and medical fitness. The initial four years dealt under a bond, are not likely to be held into deliberation for the rectifying of the final pension benefits. Consequently, the scheme would lead to better battle preparedness through choosing the best with a tough and transparent selection process[2].

REASONS FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF AGNIPATH SCHEME

In past years, the recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces was on a 15+ year term of office and continuing pensions for life. For the current year, the total defence budget is at Rs. 5.25 lakh crore, out of this, Rs. 1.20 lakh crore is spent on the pension pay-outs solely and nearly Rs. 1.35 lakh crore on the salaries of the personnel[3]. As per Amit Cowshish, 55% of the military budget is spent on salaries and pensions recently. If we make a comparison among the total sum of salary and pension conferred to a soldier for his duty of 17 years and the pay that’s going to be expended on an Agniveer there would be an economizing of around Rs. 11.5 crores[4]. This saved amount can be used to modernize the military, purchase new weapons and invest in new technologies, says the government because, In the budget of 2020-21, Approximately dollar 7 billion was assigned for capital expenditure which is for the attainment of modern armaments and spares, but in today’s world, dollar 7 billion doesn’t buy much military modernization. Along with this, there is an alarming need in the military to maintain an age balance as the current mean age of personnel in the military is 32 years. After the execution of this plan more than half of the army officers would be young and the average age will be lessened to 24 to 26 years resulting in the involvement of more youth in the military.  [5]

PROTEST ON AGNIPATH SCHEME

The scheme was not well received by the people from different parts of the country. They had certain problems with the scheme. Firstly, the main issue was Job Insecurity. After the completion of 4 years, the remaining 75% of Agniveers will turn out to be jobless. The age of 17-21 is when a person acquires a degree and the skills necessary for work but in the same period, Agniveers are trained and further removed so it remains unanswered that how will the Agniveer apply for a job with the lack of a degree. Secondly, the issue of wastage of training. The strength of the Armed Forces could get affected when the Agniveers at the end of 4 years, after being at the peak of their training will be removed. It has also been criticized on grounds like the risk of soldiers turning out to be mercenaries as it is difficult to get employment in our country and Agniveers would be having important information and skills from the Indian military which the foreign army could take advantage of. The scheme has been attacked by many serving and retired officers as they claim, that it requires seven to eight years to turn into an entirely qualified conflict-ready armed forces personnel. This contractual employment may likely affect the lightning spirit of the military. Due to all such worries, many people came out on the streets to protest. It turned violent in many places which caused great damage to public property. On one single day June 17, a total of 12 trains were put on fire and the motion of 300 trains was disturbed, houses of ministers were attacked, blocked highways, strikes, and a lot of disappointment were raised in the country. [6]

STAND OF GOVERNMENT ON AGNEEPATH SCHEME

According to the government, after getting training in the Indian Armed Forces, there will be an increase in the job opportunities in different fields as the Agniveers will have experience and the military discipline indulged in them. The government has additionally promised to make reservations for Agniveer with 10% of the position in the Home and Defense Ministries, 10% of the offices in the Indian Coast Guard, and 10% of the seats in the Central Armed Police Force (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles. Along with this, Agniveers to be provided with special courses and will be given preferences in the loans and jobs. [7]

APPEAL IN THE SUPREME COURT CONTRARY TO THE AGNIPATH SCHEME

Several petitions are filed in the courts of India opposing the scheme while the hearings are going in process. In the Supreme Court, Advocate Vishal Tiwari filed a plea to analyze the influence of the scheme on the security of the nation and inspect the violence in the protests. Plea advised for the establishment of the judicial committee. Justice C.T. Ravikumar said that the case will be put forward before the CJI and the discussion will be done amid the court vacation. Advocate Singh filed a writ petition which expresses that the protests in the country were due to the declaration of the scheme. Advocate Sharma filed a PIL demanding the constitutional rationality of the scheme. A caveat is filed in the Supreme Court by the Union Government asserting that the court has to listen to its part before listening to any of the appeals.[8] Ex-Servicemen Shekhawat filed a petition claiming the scheme to be illegal and unconstitutional. The plea charged that the scheme threatens the future of Agniveers, it sought for the formation of a veterans committee to look into the scheme and advised to start a ‘Pilot Project’ to examine the source and outcome of the scheme.[9] The decision of the court would be noteworthy.

CONCLUSION

Indian Government has made a strong opinion expressing the urgent need to reform the armed forces. With the new technologies arising in the world, it becomes significant to modernize the Indian military and include the young generation. As such requirements have to be effectively communicated to the protestors so that they understand the objectives of the scheme from the point of view of the nation. But the booming violence in the protests is essential to put on an end if they wish to show their disapproval of the scheme they must do it by lawful means. Also, the Government should make a note of the disapproval and try to make a few changes that are correct from the point of view of protestors while implementing the scheme. As if the motive behind the scheme is youth empowerment then the 4 years of training and experience of Agniveers be certified as a graduation degree so along with the required skills they will get a degree. The recruitment of the armed forces could not take place in the last two years due to COVID hence the recruitment of batch 2019 and 2020 be according to the old process. The ministers have promised various job securities and post to the Agniveers but it must lock it so as with the change of Government it won’t matter the promises. 

Author(s) Name: Vedika Nitin Jadhav (Mumbai University)

References:

[1] Krishn Kaushik, ‘Explained: The Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers – what is it, how will it work?’, (The Indian EXPRESS, 16 June 2022) <https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/agnipath-scheme-for-recruiting-soldiers-7969432/> accessed 9 August 2022

[2] Rahul Singh, ‘Govt grants age waiver for Agnipath amid stir’, (Hindustan Times, 17 June 2022) <https://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/govt-grants-age-waiver-for-agnipath-amid-stir-101655405064252.html> accessed 9 August 2022

[3] ‘How Agnipath recruitment scheme for Indian armed forces can help cut costs for the government’, (Times Now Exclusive, 15 June 2022) <https://www.timesnownews.com/exclusive/how-agnipath-recruitment-scheme-for-indian-armed-forces-can-help-cut-costs-for-the-government-article-92236220> accessed 9 August 2022

[4] Prakash Nanda, ‘Agnipath scheme: Why India’s Highly Criticized Modernization Drive for its Military is a Historic Decision by Modi Govt’, (The EurAsian Times, 15 June 2022) <https://eurasiantimes.com/agnipath-scheme-why-indias-highly-criticized-modernization-drive/> accessed 9 August 2022

[5] Goyat, ‘Agneepath Scheme 2022 Indian Army Bharti, Salary, Age, Selection Process’, (SSA Tripura, 22 July 2022) <https://www.ssatripura.com/agneepath-yojana/> accessed 9 August 2022

[6] Alok Pandey & Manish Kumar, ‘12 trains Burnt, Stations Vandalised In Agnipath Protests : 10 Facts’, (NDTV, 18 June 2022) <https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/agnipath-protest-2-coaches-of-passenger-train-set-on-fire-by-mob-in-bihar-3074583> accessed 9 August 2022

[7] Shailaja Tripathi, ‘Agnipath scheme benefits: How Agniveers will be benefitted after their retirement from Agnipath scheme?’, (Jagran Josh, 22 June 2022) <https://m.jagranjosh.com/current-affairs/amp/agnipath-scheme-benefits-how-agniveers-will-be-benefitted-after-their-retirement-from-agnipath-scheme-1655891524-1> accessed 9 August 2022

[8] The Wire Staff, ‘Plea Against Agnipath Mentioned in SC; Union Govt files Caveat asking to be heard first’, (The Wire, 21 June 2022) <https://m.thewire.in/article/law/plea-against-agnipath-mentioned-in-sc-union-govt-files-caveat-asking-to-be-heard-first> accessed 9 August 2022

[9] PTI, ‘Fresh Plea in Supreme Court Challenges Agnipath Scheme’, (NDTV, 5 July 2022) <https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/fresh-plea-in-supreme-court-challenges-agnipath-scheme-3130225> accessed 9 August 2022