Baptism by fire: Army pension needs pruning. But Agnipath protests show future soldiers’ anxiety needs better responses

News: Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved an attractive recruitment scheme for Indian youth to serve in the Armed Forces called AGNIPATH. Violent protests erupted in parts of India ever since the launch of the scheme.

Must read: Cabinet clears Agnipath Scheme

Need: The US in FY-2018 set aside 10% of the defence department’s total expenses for pension. In the UK, the pension outgo in FY-2019 was 14% of the total defence spending.

According to a parliamentary committee report in 2020, there are 3.2 million defence pensioners, with about 55,000 added annually. In 2010-11, pension outgo was 19% of total defence expenditure. The fallout of pension’s rising share is a corresponding decrease in expenditure to buy new equipment.

Must read: Agnipath Scheme: Need, Benefits and Challenges – Explained, pointwise
What are the challenges associated with the Agnipath Scheme?

Lack of motivation: Post-announcement assurances of job preferences in paramilitary or police, or bank loans for potential entrepreneurs are inadequate to satisfy youth to be an Agniveer.

Losing long-term job options: According to CMIE’s April 2022 jobs data, unemployment was 50% for the 15-19 age group, and 38.7% for the 20-24 cohort. The scheme will increase the unemployment figures.

Read more: Education Ministry to recognize in-service training received by Agniveers as credits for graduation
What should be done?

a) The government needs to quickly design a more effective package to help demobilised Agniveers’ transition to civilian life, b) Follow best practices: In the US, it takes 20 years of service to be eligible for a pension. This helps the US to keep pension costs down. India can follow such practices.

Source: This post is based on the article “Baptism by fire: Army pension needs pruning. But Agnipath protests show future soldiers’ anxiety needs better responses” published in The Times of India on 17th June 22.

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