Ever since the Govt declared the Agnipath scheme, it’s been in the headlines more for the violence it has triggered across the nation than for what’s it about. So much so that there are more news articles telling us what’s burning where rather than what’s the reason for such anguish. Even before we could understand the proposal, our overzealous unemployed brethren have gone on a rampage destroying the Govt property of the very same Govt they want to work for. It’s really confusing, at least for me. After ploughing through tons of ink (digital ink, per se), this is what I’ve understood. Maybe I missed something but let me try.     

Broadly speaking

  • The Agnipath scheme proposes the recruitment of men into the armed forces for a period of four years on a contractual basis, including a training period of 6-8 months. Its objective being to overhaul the old recruitment process and bring down the average age of the troops.
  • Only 25% of the Agniveers (the name for those recruited under this scheme) would be retained while the other 75% would be released. Those being released would get priority during recruitment into the paramilitary services post-release. 
  • On release, the Agniveers would get a sumptuous financial package worth Rs 11 lakhs, and death/disability compensation where applicable. 
  • For those wanting to restart their lives on the civil street, they would be provided with financial assistance like loans for starting a business, education credits if they want to pursue their education, etc.
  • During the tenure, the Govt would provide skill training opportunities to ensure personal growth.

This is just a simple gist of the scheme, not the detailed outline. From here, it ‘looks’ good. But like all proposals, I’m sure there are many ifs and buts and hidden agendas which need a deeper understanding of the whole process. But it still does not justify the mindless orgy of destruction of public property.

Here’s what I think –

One, the proposed recruitment numbers of 46,000 under the Agnipath scheme is far below the numbers being recruited currently, which is more than one lakh. If we are aiming to grow into a younger and fitter force, then we need more numbers. The Govt plans to increase the numbers in the subsequent years but that needs to be brought out clearly to pacify the future recruits. That should calm down the angry mobs for some time. And the agitators need to calmly understand the finer points instead of acting as puppets in the hands of various parties with their own agendas.

Two, the Agnipath scheme should not have been just dumped on the unsuspecting, especially when there has not been any recruitment for the last two years due to Covid. Many have been waiting for the recruitment to commence. The scheme would have come as a shock to them. The Agnipath scheme should have been implemented as a trial in different tech/non-tech branches of the three armed forces to see the outcome before being implemented in every cadre. This would have allowed the Govt to find the gaps and fill them with appropriate changes in the scheme.

Three, a release after 4 years is reasonable. It’s neither too long to be away from the civil world nor too short to not be able to contribute to the service. The Agniveers get time to work out their future course of action while being employed and learning new skills. Many nations with strong military forces, like the USA, China, Israel, France and Russia, have applied this process of short-term recruitment of enlisted men to support the manpower requirements. It’s a time-tested scheme. Let’s not make it complicated and complex by involving caste or regionalism just to suit our hidden agendas. 

Four, the main reason for the opposition to the Agnipath scheme is that everyone wants to get a Govt job. Once in, one is assured a fixed income till retirement and a pension post-retirement, irrespective of their contribution. And that’s what is not going down well with the agitating thousands. Even before the details of the Agnipath scheme have been properly understood, they want to know what’s going to happen post-release. Ironically, all those who are asking for post-release benefits are those who haven’t even got a job currently. So, first things first – get recruited. The perks on joining are a lot better than their current source of income. I mean how much can you depend on daily wages earned through stone pelting and burning buses? All those serious about doing something with their lives get the chance to train and learn skills at no extra cost to them.

Five, questions about the dangers of young men trained in weapons being let loose on society are a little preposterous. It’s not just handling weapons that these Agniveer recruits are going to learn about. It’s the complete package. They learn about discipline (which is so evidently lacking in most of them), teamwork, camaraderie, taking responsibility, being accountable, leadership, organisational skills, management, decision making, pushing limits, and a whole lot which will transform them into valuable human resource. And let’s not see those 21–22-year-olds being released as babies. They might join as kids, but they become the men you would be proud of knowing by the time they leave. We’ve enough and more examples of these ‘babies’ who have made us proud with their heroic deeds from time to time. 

Six, this whole Govt job is a lifetime engagement is not the right way of looking at it. We have got this belief that the Govt is responsible for providing for us till our graves and beyond if possible. Why? Are we this incapable of doing something ourselves? If the Govt has provided us with an opportunity, why can’t it be used as a steppingstone to improve our lives after that? People have started off with lesser and achieved more. By fanning wrong beliefs and promoting incorrect and incomplete ideas, the people opposed to this whole Agnipath scheme are creating a whole generation of manpower which is dependent, misdirected and clueless. 

Seven, when it’s difficult agreeing on what we are going to order at a restaurant when we go in a large group, then why is everyone expecting the perfect employment opportunity compatible with everyone’s requirements after just one announcement by the Govt? Seems premature, isn’t it? With each day more and more new changes are being introduced to pacify the instigated rioters. More and more industries are coming forward with post-release options. So, let’s wait and see how it goes and then we can go back to throwing a tantrum, or the self-righteous agitations and opposition. Must add that I love, and absolutely agree, with the latest condition about getting a no-rioting, no-arson clean-chit. That would hopefully deter some of our misdirected youth. 

Conclusion

We grow up with this belief that it’s the Govt’s responsibility to provide for everything, preferably free of cost or at least subsidised. But have any of us asked how much we have been able to give back to the nation or society? For a healthy environment to exist, there has to be a give and take. We take generously but do we give in the same manner? And in our country, military service is not even compulsory, so doesn’t matter if one gets to serve for 4 years or 40, it still counts. Serving your nation is not a job, it’s a service of the highest order. I’m sure we can work for 4 years for our nation and then continue with our lives. Just a thought.

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5 Comments

  1. “Serving your nation is not a job, it’s a service of the highest order”…..this is what is the most important message….This is an article that should be circulated so that everyone has a chance to read it and understand.

  2. Excellent articulation of the intricacies of the scheme. Agree to most of the points. Good for the nation. Yes, a bit taxing on the armed forces, but then our armed forces do wonders. So shall they do in churning out well groomed citizens.

  3. The article is a sensible look at the issue which has many many layers. Any govt scheme needs good and sensible implementation and a dynamic response to changing situation. Debates will go on. Lets see how the fisrt batch fares. Fine tuning along the way will make things better. Damaging govt property has no place in civil society. That’s for sure!

    1. Well written article. The Armed Forces doctrines are layered with customs & traditions . Any transformational reforms like recruitment of soldiers should have been preceeded by a transparent test_ retest validation process to preempt fear and uncertainty .Let us hope , it serves its purpose.

  4. The Armed Forces doctrines are layered with customs and traditions. Any transformational reform for induction of soldiers in such n old fabric should have been preceeded by a transparent test_retest validation to preempt fear and uncertainty . A well written article.

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