NEW DELHI: In the midst of escalating violent protests against the radical new Agnipath scheme, which recruits soldiers for only four years, the government announced late Thursday night that the upper age limit for candidates will be raised to 23 from 21 as a one-time waiver.
The government also stated that the intake in the armed forces in the coming years will be roughly triple what it is now, with several options available for those who are demobilised after four years.
“Since the implementation of the Agnipath scheme, the entry age for all new recruits in the armed forces has been set at 17.5 to 21 years of age,” the defence ministry said.
What exactly is the agneepath scheme?
The Agnipath scheme is a recruitment process for people below the rank of officer with the goal of deploying fitter, younger troops on the front lines, many on four-year contracts. It’s a game-changer that will make the Army, Navy, and Air Force appear younger.
Because recruitment rallies could not be held in the previous two years, the government decided to grant a one-time waiver for the proposed recruitment cycle for 2022, in which 46,000 Agniveers will be recruited.
“As a result, the upper age limit for the Agnipath scheme recruitment process for 2022 has been raised to 23 years,” the MoD said.
When will Agneepath Recruitment Started?
The first Agnipath entry rally bharti will take place between September and October 2022.
The reduction in intake this year to 46,000 in the Army, IAF, and Navy with an age restriction of 17.5 to 21 years, and that too for four-year tenures with no pensionary or ex-servicemen benefits, has sparked protests in states such as UP, Bihar, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, and Uttarakhand, which have traditionally contributed significantly to the 14-lakh strong armed forces.
Who is eligible to join Agneepath?
Eligibility for Agneepath Yojana
You must be a citizen of India. Participants must be between the ages of 17 and 21 to participate in this programme. You must be in good health to apply for the Agneepath Yojana online. There will be a three-year hiatus from work.
Every year, the 12-lakh Army alone recruited over 50,000 soldiers, with the figure reaching 80,572 when recruitment rallies were held for the final time in 2019-2020.
Under the Agnipath scheme, Army Vice-Chief Lt-General B S Raju told the media on Wednesday that his force would gradually increase annual recruitment from 40,000 Agniveers this year to 1.2 lakh by the seventh or eighth year, and then 1.6 lakh by the tenth or eleventh year. The ultimate goal is to have a 50:50 split between regular cadre soldiers and Agniveers.
The government stated in a “Myths vs Facts” document released on Thursday that it was a myth that the future of Agniveers being demobilised – 75 percent of each batch – would be insecure. “Those who want to be entrepreneurs will get a financial package (a Rs 11.71 lakh exit package from Seva Nidhi) and bank loan schemes,” an official said.
How much does the Agnipath Scheme pay?
Their starting salary is expected to be Rs. 30,000 (approximately $384), plus other benefits. By the end of the four-year service, their salary will have risen to Rs. 40,000 (approximately $512).
Furthermore, as part of the Seva Nidhi programme, 30 percent of the soldiers’ pay will be set aside during this time, and the government will contribute an equal amount each month. Each soldier will receive Rs. 11.71 lakh in tax-free compensation at the end of their four-year service, as well as Rs. 48 lakh in life insurance coverage. Those who are re-selected will not be eligible for retirement benefits for the first four years.
Despite claims that the Agnipath scheme will give young people a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to serve their country and contribute to national development, protests have erupted across India.
“When India faces threats on two fronts, the unnecessary Agnipath scheme reduces the operational effectiveness of our armed forces,” opposition leader Rahul Gandhi tweeted. “The BJP government must stop undermining our forces’ dignity, traditions, valour, and discipline.”
Protests Against the Agnipath Scheme in Several States
Massive protests are taking place, for example, in Bihar and Rajasthan, with people shouting slogans and staging demonstrations against the Agnipath scheme. Army aspirants have disrupted rail and road traffic in Bihar, and the demonstrations have now turned violent. On Thursday, opponents of the scheme set fire to tyres, vandalised bushes, and set trains on fire.
One of the reasons for this is that people who want to join the Indian army are put off by the fact that the Agnipath scheme is based on a four-year contract. Individuals have expressed concern about the future of their services.
Many of these people prioritise job stability, including retirement benefits and pensions, over competitive pay. The majority of them will be forced to leave their jobs within four years, which contradicts their hopes and dreams.
“After four years, the Agniveers will be integrated into civil society, where they will be able to make significant contributions to the nation-building process. The government stated that “the skills gained by each Agniveer will be recognised in a certificate that will form part of his unique resume.”
However, people are concerned that the skills they learn as soldiers will not be applicable to the various jobs available in civil society. Furthermore, they are concerned that job recruiters will not prioritise them over others because of their Agniveer status when looking for people to fill new positions.
“Where will we go after only four years of work? After four years of service, we will be homeless. So we’ve blocked the roads; the country’s leaders won’t know that people are aware,” a protestor in Jehanabad told ANI.
People are also concerned about the amount of time allotted to training. A soldier’s training normally takes two to three years, but under the Agnipath scheme, soldiers will only be trained for six months.
Russian soldiers who were only prepared for a short period of time before going to battle allegedly performed poorly, according to defence specialists. They argue that, with challenges from both Pakistan and China, India cannot afford to neglect proper training of its army’s many components.
“We put up a lot of effort to join the military. How will four years of service go, with months of training and vacations? How would we secure the country after only three years of training? Another protestor stated, “The government must reverse this scheme.”
The opposition to the government’s “major defence policy overhaul” was unexpected. In response to Thursday’s violence, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath urged the youth not to be “deceived,” claiming that the move will “open new vistas” for them.