[Answered] The Agnipath scheme is a transformative initiative that will strengthen the operational capabilities of the armed forces. Examine the statement.

Introduction: contextual introduction.
Body: Write in brief how the Agnipath scheme will strengthen the operational capabilities of the armed forces.  Also write some challenges.
Conclusion: Write way forward.

Recently, the Government of India has announced the Agnipath Scheme for recruitment of soldiers, the majority of whom will serve for four years. The recruitment will be All India All Class (AIAC). It will not be restricted by ethnicity or caste unlike the regiments introduced by the British colonisers.

 How it will strengthen the operational capabilities of the armed forces?

  • At present, more than 60% of men are above 30 years of age. Today, the number of sepoys has fallen below 40%. Therefore, it will lead to regular intake and ensure availability of youthful, patriotic, physically fit and highly-motivated youth.
  • The armed forces needed two fundamental shifts: a shift from reliance on personnel to technology, and a younger age profile of soldiers. A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies.
  • In fact, all major militaries in the world are undergoing reform. There is a trend towards reduction in the number of personnel and emphasis on increasing capital expenditure on modern weapons and equipment.
  • Defence salary and pension bills account for roughly half of the annual defence budget. It imposes overall budgetary constraint and compromises the availability of funds for military modernisation. This scheme will reduce the defence pension bills.

Challenges:

  • Technology cannot replace troops on the ground. The presence of troops on a large inhospitable border is vital to holding territory. A younger age profile might help. But it should be added with training, experience and professional bonds.
  • The recruitment by state allotments has maintained some regional balance, and become the army of all of India. This balance is crucial in avoiding ethnic conflict and civil war.
  • All-India recruitment will require a massive organisational and cultural shift in the army. To create new regimental cultures, sources of loyalty, and discipline, there is a need for longer terms of service rather than shorter ones.
  • After the completion of the contract, 25% of them will be retained and the rest will leave the forces. The four years of service means other jobs will be out of reach after that.

The scheme will increase the availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy, which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP. The armed forces need support and reform. But reforms should be governed by a sound sociological, professional, institutional, and strategic logic.

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