Government on back foot with Agnipath scheme

After hastily announcing the Agnipath scheme in the name of employment generation, the govt was forced to take two steps back as protests broke out across the country against the Army job programme

IANS Photo
IANS Photo

NH Web Desk

After hastily announcing the Agnipath scheme in the name of employment generation, the union government was forced to take two steps back because protests broke out across the country against the four-year Army job programme.

Under this scheme, the soldiers will be recruited for just four years. Of the total annual recruits, only 25% will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission. Aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 21 years will be eligible to apply and recruitment will be done twice a year. The move is aimed at making the armed forces leaner and reducing the defence pension bill.

However, after announcing the scheme on June 14, the government late on Thursday, June 16, announced that the government has increased the upper-age limit for recruitment under the "Agnipath" scheme to 23 years from 21 years for the year 2022- a one-time waiver.

The selected aspirants will go through six months’ training and will be deployed for 3.5 years. They will begin with a salary of ₹30,000and the in-hand amount would be Rs 21,000 Rs 9,000 would go to a corpus with an equal contribution from the government. It will go up to ₹40,000 by the end of the four-year service. At least 30% of their salary would be set aside under a savings programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest.

At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get ₹11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free. The four-year period will not be considered for retirement benefits in case of those who are re-selected.

A day after announcing the scheme, the Ministry of Education said it will launch a three-year bachelor’s degree programme that will give credits to serving defence personnel who avail the scheme. The programme will be designed and executed by IGNOU.

Soon after, the Ministry of Home Affairs under Amit Shah announced that Agniveers will get priority when recruiting for the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and Assam rifles, This led to several BJP-ruled states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana stating that “preference” will be given to Agniveers in state police forces.

Opposition parties in Haryana criticised the Union government and demanded the immediate rollback of Agnipath, after protests raged in the state against the new short-term military recruitment scheme.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi slammed the BJP on the Agniveer scheme stating that the government shouldn’t reduce the effectiveness of the forces. He tweeted, "When India faces threats on two fronts, the uncalled for Agnipath Scheme reduces the operational effectiveness of our armed forces. The BJP government must stop compromising the dignity, traditions, valour, and discipline of our forces."

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the scheme is “controversial, carries multiple risks, subverts the long-standing traditions and ethos of the armed forces and there is no guarantee that the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country”.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejaswi Yadav said: “How will the country be safe if its brave soldiers are insecure of the government and its policies?”

In Bihar, where protests have been raging, BJP ally and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United (JDU) has opposed the new military recruitment policy "Agnipath" declared by the Centre. The party said that the new policy instilled a sense of fear and uncertainty in the minds of youth about their future, not only in Bihar but across the country.

JDU President Rajiv Ranjan Singh, alias Lalan Singh, took to Twitter to voice his party's concerns regarding the 'Agnipath' scheme.

Another of BJP's alliance partner in Bihar, the Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) also demanded the Centre to roll back the scheme, terming it to be 'dangerous for the nation'.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) leader Mayawati asked the government to take back the recruitment system. In a series of tweets, the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister said that the new move of recruitment will add to the woes of the people already beset with inflation and poverty.

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