The Narendra Modi government introduced the new recruitment initiative for the armed forces earlier this week. The government said youths between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 years would be inducted for a four-year tenure while 25% of the recruits will be retained for regular service. The upper age limit was raised to 23 years on Thursday amid widespread protests.
The new scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy and Air Force was projected by the government as a major overhaul of the decades-old selection process to enhance the youthful profile of the three services. Those to be recruited under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme will be known as ‘Agniveers‘.
Here are a few reasons why protests have erupted across India:
- Protesters have opined that under the new scheme, their future is insecure. They want to work for a full 15 years as per the existing system because it guarantees higher salaries and chances to get promoted to senior level with pensionary benefits.
- While the recruited Agniveers will be paid a lump sum of Rs 11.5 lakh after the completion of the four years of service, they will receive no pensionary benefits or gratuity. Pensions in the new scheme are unlike the previous system. Earlier, the troops joined for a 17-year period, which could be extended for some personnel. This resulted in a lifelong pension.
- Protestors also feel that there will be no employment guarantee post the four years of training, only skill training.
- Protestors think the opportunities will decrease as a result of ‘Agnipath’. Some of them demanded the government to give ‘Agniveers’ 20-30 per cent reservation in other jobs once they are out of service after four years under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, IANS reported.
- The protestors are also angry because the government launched the scheme without taking suggestions or consulting the common Indians who spend years preparing for the prestigious post.
- Some military veterans have also slammed the scheme saying it will adversely impact the functioning of the armed forces
- On the criticism that the short-duration tenure of ‘Agniveers’ will harm the effectiveness of the armed forces, the officials said such a system exists in several countries, and hence, it is already tested out and considered best practice for an agile army.
News agency PTI reported that the proposal has been framed by the Department of Military Officers staffed by military officers. Under the scheme, the Army is likely to recruit around 40,000 soldiers, the Navy is expected to induct around 3,000 sailors and the IAF is set to recruit 3,000 airmen this year.
Sources told PTI that the government plans to have a centralised database on the Agniveers to keep track of the skills that they would acquire during their four-year tenure.