Fire Warriors and Firestorm

By the Editor: Siddharth Sehgal

Winning an election is never a measure of a politician’s greatness

But unfortunately, this simple fact has been wholly ignored by the ruling party in the center and its leadership. They live in some false sense that whatever half-baked decision or policy they will regurgitate will be swallowed whole by the masses without question and when people protests erupt against such policies they seem confused as to why people cannot toe the line and sing praises to the prime minister.

Protests have erupted across the country against the new scheme that will turn one of the finest armed forces in the world into an employment agency. Government and its pet news channels simply don’t understand why youth are expressing anger in such a violent way. The youth who wasted two years waiting for regular army recruitment was simply told that as per the new scheme 75% of the recruited personnel will be laid off or “retired” after four years of a tour of duty without the benefit of a pension. Imagine such frustration and given this government’s reputation of not paying any heed to advise, consultation, or protests, no wonder this was coming. Yes, violence, arson, and stone-pelting are wrong but the protesters feel cheated out of this deal.

Rather than piloting the new scheme for a few years and understanding its nuances, impacts, pros, and cons, the central government simply unloaded it on the society with whatever they call planning or consultation. Demonetization, the lockdown, the farm bills, and the list continues to go on.

Knowing that he will be left in a lurch after four years and would not be taken care of after retirement, don’t you think it will dampen the motivation of youth to risk his life and limb for the country? Moreover, soldiers are not potatoes that you can churn out within a few months, it’s a long painstaking training, conditioning, and development process that take years. There are also concerns about further militarizing an already violent society. An unemployed trained soldier who doesn’t have any other skill may stray into the world of crime or into forming armed militias. Mexican drug cartel ‘Los Zetas’ cartel is a curious case study that might as well play out in Indian context. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, many unpaid and unemployed soldiers became mercenaries, gunrunners, and gang enforcers.

As to promises of employment and absorption by other government departments of “Agneeveers” who will be laid off after four years of service, I doubt that there will be so many opportunities that everyone will be absorbed. The promise of 2 crore jobs every year remains a promise. Believe the “good intentions” of the government if you want but many of the youth who are protesting are not buying it.

Defense and its expenses are not a burden on our country or its economy; it’s like the price we pay for being safe in a tough neighborhood. We need soldiers who are free from any worry of well-being for themselves or their loved ones. Government should listen to veterans and the protesting youths, it should revoke this scheme.

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