There are demonstrations across the country regarding Agnipath. The government aims to empower the Indian Army by employing the youth under the Agnipath scheme. Mahendra Kumar of Organiser Weekly discussed the Agnipath Scheme with Colonel S Dinny Retd, Editor, Chanakya forum. Here are the excerpts of the conversation.
The Agnipath scheme has run into a major controversy. What are the advantages of the scheme?
Ever since independence, we have seen the nature of warfare change across the globe. But the Human resource management of the Indian arms forces has not changed in any manner and carries on the British legacy. Therefore this reform was necessary and had been pending for many years. This particular reform has been in discussion for the last 30 to 35 years. But the decision was not taken randomly due to political will. The aim of this scheme and its advantage is that it provides good opportunities to our youth at a very young age. As we all know today, there is a requirement for the child to bring a change to the ground. Indian Demographic figures show 28 as the average Indian youth age so how can the armed forces’ average age be 32. This particular higher age was seen during the Kargil war and after the Kargil war, the review committee recommended that the age of Jawans be brought down. The most important advantage of this scheme is that it brings down the age of Jawans from 32 to 25 or 26. The second advantage is the technological revolution it will bring along. There is a plan to hire youths from technical backgrounds so that they can fulfil the requirements of the armed forces as soon as possible. The third advantage for the armed forces is it will bring change in its revenue expenditure as far as pension is concerned; although the government did not say that, through this scheme, in the coming years India’s defence budget will be lesser as the pension bill is 63% of the entire defence budget. Therefore we have to bring down the pension bill. Indian armed forces also have to represent all of India’s outlook. Any person from anywhere should have an equal opportunity to join the Indian armed forces. These are the main advantages of the Agnipath Scheme. The youth will have more opportunities to serve the nation through the Indian military. If before this scheme 100 people could get jobs in the Indian Armed Forces, now that number will be 300.
Under this scheme, the youth will only be recruited for 4 years. Would that compromise the quality or skill set?
In the Indian Army, recruitment was always done after basic training. Training is an everyday process. It’s not just 6 months or years. Also, 25% of the best performing Agniveers will be regularised. Apart from this, the remaining 75% of Agniveers will also achieve good placements in the future. The 25% Agniveers who will be regularised will also be given excellent training.
Does the government need to make any new policy for the rest of the 75% of Agniveers who will not be regularised?
The government is coming up with many schemes for them. The government is taking steps to ensure that the educational activities of these Agniveers do not stop. The Agniveer who is coming after doing 10th standard, the government will provide 12th class certificate. For this, the government has tied up with many educational institutions. Aside from this, 10% reservation will also be given to them for jobs with the State police. After 4 years of service, Agniveer will have a savings of about 12 lakhs, so he can start any other business of his own. These Agniveers will be better than other people in society so they will have no shortage of opportunities.
Issues related to military modernisation in our country have always been controversial. Why do you think that is?
Our country is a democratic country and our politics is very vibrant. The army is also part of this system. Therefore, it is natural that the issues related to the army will be in the discussion, whether it is the issue of the Bofors scandal or the Agnipath scheme. Many times such issues go beyond our limits; we had seen earlier the issue of the Balakot airstrike was also in the headlines. I believe that debate is necessary for a democratic country. When it comes to the country’s security, everyone should be careful to not speak anything against the country.
The government is saying that this scheme has been implemented in other countries as well. But in some countries it is permanent. Can this be implemented permanently in India also?
This scheme is permanent in some countries, but this scheme is not permanent. I believe that this scheme in India cannot be mandated for all and should not be so. Our country is significant; it is not easy to bring the entire country’s youth under this scheme.