by Danish Farooq
Recently, the defense minister of India along with the three chiefs of the army, Airforce, and navy in a press conference announced the infamous Agnipath scheme. Under this scheme youths from the age of 18-21 years will be recruited into the defense forces (army, navy, airforce) for a period of 4 years. After that only 25% among the recruited soldiers (now called agniveers) will be retained, the rest 75% will be called-off.
This step of the Modi government has led to a wide range of resentment among the youths and led to protests across the lengths and breadths of the country. However, in the press conference, the defense minister along with the three defense service chiefs elaborated on the advantages of the Agnipath scheme. And with the wave of protests in the different parts of the country. In order to appease the youth, the defense ministry increased the upper age limit and gave the relaxation of five years. Also, it was said that Agniveers after four years of service means after retiring. They will be given a priority in the requirement for the central armed police forces(CAPF) and in paramilitary forces which include the Central Industrial Security Force(CISF), Central Reserve Police (CRP), Border Security Force(BSF), Indo-Tibetian Border Police (ITBP), Sashatra Seema Bal(SSB) and Assam Rifles(AR) respectively.
Also, many of the industrialists also supported this say of the government that they will also prioritise the retired agniveers while recruiting their staff. Agnipath scheme was actually proposed by the Kargil review committee which was constituted three days after the Kargil war in 1999. It is said that the dynamics of warfare are changing with the coming of modern technology. And India is possibly facing the threat of hybrid warfare. So it is the need of an hour to recruit tech agile people in order to bring their technical knowledge into their service. It was also held by the government that too much money is spent on ballooning salaries and pensions.
So in order to also reduce that money on salary and pension and to spend it on modernizing the armed forces changes in the armed forces need to be done. Many youths are claiming that they have already cleared all the procedures in the earlier recruitment rallies held before the upsurge of covid and were awaiting the joining letters. But during the press conference when this question was asked to the defense ministry. They replied that all the incomplete recruitments which were done before are cancelled. Recruitment in the armed forces will only be done through Agnipath scheme. This also created a much of resentment among the youths which resulted in protests all over India. In some places, they turned into violent clashes between the government forces and the protestors. Many retired veteran officers from the army, navy, and airforce also raised their concern against the Agnipath scheme.
As combat readiness takes 7-8 years. In Agnipath one has to serve only for four years including the training period. So this goes unchecked under this scheme. Also the core culture in the Indian armed forces i.e; Naam (name), Namak (salt), Nishan (mark). Will be somehow ignored now. And hence will impact the operational compatibility of the Indian armed forces. There is a strong belief in the South Asian societies in fact among all the third world countries including Asia and Africa. That in order to develop, one needs to follow the West. However one ignores all other facets or spheres when one thinks that development can only be achieved by following the West. It is not always true. We have our own ways, belief systems, and philosophy in each and every sphere of life to prosper or to develop. The majority of the Western countries are doing the recruitment of their youths for a short and temporary period. But it doesn’t mean we should do the same. They are operating in different contexts and conditions. Their literacy rate is much higher than India or any other South Asian country. India claims to be a “Jagat Guru” of the world. If it is true why it is always following the West to prosper and develop. Why it doesn’t set an example for World. So that other countries will follow its model. If not for the world at least for South Asia. It’s not the only case of Agnipath scheme that India copied from the West. This trend has been going on for the last decades. Like the GST(goods and service tax). It was first implemented in the western countries, then India copied it. The policy should not only be implemented seeing its one-sided advantage. It should be implemented considering the social, economic, and all other costs.
About the Author:
Danish Farooq Bhat, from kunzer, Baramulla, J&K. has done bachelors from Kashmir University and is pursuing master’s in political science from the Central University of Kashmir. His interests include analysing the policies including defense and foreign policy.