How can Agnipath be made more attractive? Recommendations from 2 former army leaders

News: Recently, the government of India introduced a new recruitment scheme for the armed forces, Agnipath. Violent protests erupted in parts of India ever since the launch of the scheme.

Must read: Cabinet clears Agnipath Scheme
What are the advantages of the Agnipath Scheme?

a) Lower the age profile in the units, b) Create a more empowered and capable junior leadership, c) The scheme will serve as a trigger for the long-pending modernization of the structure and management philosophy of the armed forces.

Overall, Agnipath is not a short-term contract, it’s a way to modernise India’s armed forces, making it more agile and tech-friendly.

Read more: Education Ministry to recognize in-service training received by Agniveers as credits for graduation
What are the challenges associated with the Agnipath Scheme?

Impact performance of armed forces: The Army’s technical units have longer training cycles. They might face a shortage of suitable recruits, or lose people just when they have started performing.

Political economic factors: Short service commission officers initially started with five-year tenure. But later their tenure is increased effectively 14. It is a step away from its original purpose. Hence, the Agnipath scheme is also vulnerable to political and economic factors.

Shakeup of military culture: National recruitment involving regimental catchments will provide units with new and unfamiliar social contexts.

Impact on Youth: Some European countries have compulsory military service. The recruits of the service suffered from a) Permanent disruption in studies, b) Mental health issues, c) Substance abuse problems and d) Some may even commit crimes.

The Agnipath scheme might also create similar problems.

Impact on Agniveers families: Without accessible support services in India, the discharged recruits and their families will have to cope alone.

Unique Unemployment: After four years in the Army, having carried and learnt to use weapons, when they return to civilian life, they will be at a loss to find comparable placement. Apart from private security and the police, none of them required such skill sets.

Increase violence: It was estimated that in 2017, in India, there were 7.1 crores of privately owned (licit and illicit) firearms and 6.1 Crores of unregistered and unlawfully held firearms, placing India second globally in terms of private ownership of guns.

India is already prone to caste and communal violence. Agniveers disappointment and resentment would make it easy to mobilize them against their neighbours and take up violence.

Further, gender-based violence will also increase as Agniveers get immersed for four years in a masculine universe of the Armed forces.

Must read: Agnipath Scheme: Need, Benefits and Challenges – Explained, pointwise
What should be done to improve Agnipath Scheme?

Relaxation to candidates: Many candidates had already entered the selection process in response to advertisements published in 2019 and 2020. These candidates are stuck at different stages as per the erstwhile process. The age relaxation of 2 years is not enough. They should be recruited via the earlier process.

Apart from that, the government should a) Improve training infrastructure, b) Like Home and defence ministries, other Ministries should reserve a certain percentage of jobs. This percentage should also be legally backed, c) Clearly explain 25% retention criteria along with clear Entry, Exit Norms, and Hiked Retention Ratio, d) Conduct common tests at both exit and entry to retain certain Agniveers for full service. This will increase competition and remove ambiguity after four years of induction, e) Consider retaining 33-50% instead of 25% after four years. Similarly, a four-year term can be extended to 5 years, f) The government should bear Agniveers’ National Pension Scheme contribution. The cost will be very small given salary levels.

Source: This post is based on the following articles

“How can Agnipath be made more attractive? Recommendations from 2 former army leaders” published in The Times of India on 20th June 22.

“It’s a chance to transform our defence management” published in Livemint on 20th June 22.

“Agnipath could be a path to vexing social problems” published in Livemint on 20th June 22.

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