In a transformative reform, the Govt of India launched the Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers (Personnel Below Officers’ Rank) in the Indian Armed Forces on 14 June 2022. After initial protests, the scheme was fully implemented on 22 Sep 2022. Youths selected under this category will be known as agniveers. Allowing patriotic and motivated youth to serve in Indian Armed Forces for a period of four years, including training.
The Agnipath scheme has been intended to cater for a youthful profile of the Indian Armed Forces. It will offer opportunities to the youth who may be interested in donning the uniform. Young talent from society who are more in tune with modern technological trends will boost Indian society with skilled, disciplined and motivated human resources. As for the Indian Armed Forces are concerned, it will improve the youthful profile of the Indian Armed Forces, enthuse a renewed phase of Josh and Jazba and bring about a transformational shift towards more tech-savvy culture in the Indian Armed Forces, which is the need of an hour.
It is envisioned that the overall age profile of the Indian Armed forces would be reduced by about 4-5 years when this scheme is fully implemented. The nation stands to immeasurably gain from this infusion of highly inspired youth with a deeper understanding of self-discipline, diligence and focus, which would be sufficiently skilled and able to pay in other sectors. The benefits of a short military service to the nation, society and the government’s youth are immense. This includes the inculcation of patriotism, teamwork, enhancement of physical fitness, ingrained loyalty to the country and availability of trained personnel to enhance national security when there are external threats, internal threats and natural disasters. This is a significant defense policy transformation by the government to move into a new age in the Human Resource policy of the Indian Armed Forces.
Agniveers will be offered a unique, tailored regular package and Risk and Hardship allowances as applicable in the three services. On completion of the engagement period of four years, Agniveers will be paid a one-time Seva Nidhi package, which shall include their contribution, including accrued interest thereon and a contribution from the government to the accumulated amount of their contribution, including interest thereof. The Seva Nidhi will be exempted from Income Tax. There shall be no entitlement to gratuity and pensionary benefits. Agniveers will receive a non-contributory Life Insurance Cover of Rs 48 lakh for their engagement period.
Throughout this service to the nation, the Agniveers will be imparted considerable military skills and experience, such as discipline, physical fitness, leadership qualities, courage and patriotism. After this stint of four years, the Agniveers will be infused into a civil society where they can contribute immensely to the nation-building process. The skills imbibed by each Agniveer will be recognized and recorded. Agniveers, after completing the four-year tenure in the prime of their youth, will be mature and self-disciplined with the realization to become a better version of themself both professionally and personally. The openings and opportunities that will open up for their progress in the civil world after Agniveer’s tenure would undoubtedly be a big plus towards nation-building. Furthermore, the Seva Nidhi of approximately Rs 11.71 lakh would aid the Agniveer to pursue their future dreams without financial pressure. We must remember that most young people who join the Defense Forces are from poor economic backgrounds.
Those who are selected in the Indian Armed Forces for permanent cadre would be engaged to serve for an engagement period of 15 years and more. The existing norms of the service of Junior Commissioned Officers/Other Ranks in the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force will govern them.
Some of the key objectives of the Agnipath scheme that may impact the Indian Army include:
- Enhancing jointness and integration: The scheme aims to improve coordination and interoperability among the three armed forces, allowing the Indian Army to work more closely with the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force in joint military operations.
- Upgrading infrastructure: The scheme envisages upgrading the defense infrastructure, including the development of new airfields, helipads, and roads, which would improve the Indian Army’s mobility and logistics.
- Streamlining procurement: The scheme seeks to simplify and expedite the procurement process and ensure transparency and accountability in defense acquisitions, which could help the Indian Army to acquire the latest equipment and technology more efficiently.
- Fostering innovation: The scheme aims to encourage innovation in defense technology and promote collaboration between the armed forces and the industry, which could help the Indian Army to develop new and more advanced weapons and equipment.
Agnipath is a modernization and restructuring initiative proposed for the Indian Armed Forces. It is expected to impact the Indian Army significantly. It aims to improve the Indian Armed Forces’ operational preparedness and combat capabilities by reorganizing and modernizing their structures, systems, and processes. The Agnipath scheme will be beneficial on many counts. However, a false narrative is being built that this has been launched to save the defense pension only, even though present pay and allowance and pension are a cause of concern in the dominions of the defense budget. It accounts for 50% of the total defense budget and leaves marginal funding for capital procurement. The scheme is solely linked to saving the defense pension is far from the truth, though some incidental benefits will accrue.
The agnipath scheme should significantly change the Indian Armed Forces and transform the nation’s youth. About 65% population is below the age of 35 years. Youth in India will be one of the biggest game-changers if suitably utilized. While many countries in the world have a more significant percentage of an aging population, India is at the highest point of a population dividend in the form of a youth bulge. But this will be to our advantage only if this youth has nationalistic feelings, motivated, skilled and disciplined. Without these qualities, they will become a liability, especially when confronted with unemployment, poverty and social divide.
Life changes quickly, and everyone is rushing and running, causing mental stress. Youth is affected more and caught in the changing web of social life. To deal effectively, the youth need proper preparation, which includes knowledge, training and a changed outlook toward life. And Indian Armed Forces are well equipped to bring such transformation.