Agnipath: Younger, stronger and fitter India

New Delhi, June 27 (IANS) In one of the most ambitious and attractive recruitment schemes to have come up in the world, the Government of India this month launched the incredibly large-scale Agnipath scheme for the Indian youth to serve in the Armed Forces. This provides an extremely straightforward and attractive route to patriotic and motivated youth to serve in the armed forces for a specified period of four years.
Though the initial upper age limit for the scheme was 21 years, it has been increased to 23 years for this recruitment cycle in lieu of the fact that recruitment to the Armed Forces did not take place for the last couple of years.
Designed to provide a youthful profile to the Armed Forces, it is also a massive opportunity for the youth who may have been keen to don the uniform but were unwilling to serve a full term of 30 or more years in the armed forces. This would not only be beneficial to the youth but also to the army which would now get a fresh lease of life, enthusiasm and vigour.
Estimates believe that the average age profile of Indian Armed Forces would come down by about six years due to the implementation of the scheme, thereby providing an additional advantage to Indian forces.
The younger the forces, the better and the higher efficiency with which they can be mobilized on various fronts. In fact, a short military service for the youth could provide for a number of additional benefits.
An inspired youth with deep understanding of technology, self-discipline and patriotism would also pay large dividends to the society and nation. All these are in addition to the intangible benefits of ingrained loyalty, patriotism, teamwork, physical fitness and mental strength that would be imparted to the youth due to this recruitment scheme.
Interestingly, those who are recruited to the scheme shall be referred to as Agniveers and will be given an attractive customised monthly package along with a risk and hardship allowance for all three services. While the engagement period shall stand for four years, 25 per cent of the recruits shall be asked to continue even after that. Those that are then asked to exit shall get a total exit package of around Rs 11.7 lakh – which shall be known as the Seva Nidhi package. As an additional benefit, this package shall be exempt from income tax in recognition of the services given by the youth towards the country.
In addition, the Defence Ministry has also approved of a reservation of about 10 per cent in the total vacancies of the Ministry which includes the Coast Guard, HAL and 16 other public sector undertakings within the ministry. Similarly, the Home Ministry has approved 10 per cent reservation in the recruitment vacancies of CAPF and Assam Rifles as well along with the necessary age relaxation (3 and 5 years for CAPFs and Assam Rifles respectively).
Among other benefits, Agniveers shall also be provided a life insurance cover of about Rs 48 lakhs throughout the duration of the engagement period. In addition, an ex gratia of Rs 44 lakhs would also be provided additionally for death attributable to service. Along with the same, a disability compensation based on the percentage of disability laid down by medical authorities would also be provided for.
Even though the selections shall remain exclusively in the jurisdiction of the armed forces, the government has announced for the recruitment to take place on a mission mode with about 46,000 Agniveers to be recruited this year itself.
The entirety of enrolment is targeted to take place through an online centralized system with specialised campus interviews from recognised technical institutes as well.
To the extent possible, the government shall also help to rehabilitate these soldiers by providing them with skill certificates and bridge courses to create entrepreneurs and a skilled workforce.
To boost their career prospects, the Ministry of Education shall launch a special, three-year skill-based bachelor’s degree programme to serve defence personnel that shall recognise skill training received by them during their tenure in defence establishments.
In addition, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship shall work collaboratively with various wings of the armed forces to impart new skills to make them better suited for civilian jobs as well.
Needless to say, there are massive benefits to this recruitment scheme. Apart from being a transformative reform for the Armed Forces, it would also provide for a much better trained, motivated and disciplined youth.
On a strategic level, operational efficiency and upgradation of warfare skills shall also ensure that the organisational structure and ethos of armed forces is further uplifted. Essentially, the scheme is geared towards preserving what has worked well and ensuring that what is broken is fixed immediately.
To ensure the smooth transition into the new set up, ex-servicemen, retired officers and experts’ opinions and views have been taken into account apart from the extensive consultations with prospective employers in the private and public sector. This would be undertaken to ensure that the post-release utilisation of young and trained Agniveers is accorded the necessary priority.
In a country that has seen policies being framed yet no or slow implementation, it would be a massive challenge for the government to undertake this recruitment drive. However, the Government of India has announced that recruitment shall begin within 90 days on a mission mode.
The average age shall go down to 26 within six years of the implementation of the scheme, providing for a youthful armed force that can be easily trained with new technologies and is future ready.
In addition, the availability of a high skilled workforce would also help the economy to gain productivity and GDP. For all such recruits to get a lumpsum amount of Rs. 11 lakh after the period of four years along with a 10+2 certificate could be a gamechanger, especially promoting entrepreneurship and micro enterprises as well without compromising upon skills and education.
It becomes an even more significant policy decision given the increased threat of the Pakistan-China axis. Additionally, it also helps mitigate the damage of a shortage of personnel at a lower cost. All in all, this out-of-the-box solution certainly possesses all the necessary elements that would build a new India that is stronger, fitter and healthier in all respects.

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