#NewsBytesExplainer: Why is armed forces' Agnipath recruitment scheme facing criticism
The Centre unveiled the Agnipath scheme on Tuesday, a new recruiting strategy for the armed services aimed at reducing wage and pension costs. Under this proposal, India's military troops will be freed after four years, with just 25% of them being recalled after a month for a complete term. However, since the announcement, there has been some criticism of the program.
- Although the new scheme has not entered the implementation phase, officials claimed that it will pave the way for massive recruitment in the defense forces.
- The recruitment in Army and other defense has been blocked for nearly two years while putting aspirants into a distressing situation.
- Some states, particularly Haryana and Punjab, also saw demonstrations over the recruitment delay.
The biggest concern expressed by people is about finding another job. "Merely four years of service will mean we will have to study for other jobs after that and be left behind others our age," one of the aspirants told NDTV. Although the Agnipath scheme opens the recruitment process of about 45,000 soldiers into defense, it is on a short-term contract basis.
A related concern arising from re-employment is whether the 'Agniveers,' soldiers who join the armed services under the Agnipath scheme, would remain motivated. Agniveers would receive a one-time lump sum amount of about Rs. 11 lakh after their four-year contract ends. They do not, however, receive any pension benefits, which means they need a second job to support themselves and their families.
Another concern is that the forces will lose experienced soldiers. After receiving technical training to support the ongoing operations, these men and women will leave after four years, which could create a void. Air Chief Marshal RKS Badhauria (Retd), however, said these concerns are unfounded because "these people will not be utilized for the highly technical job, which requires another level of training."
Defense expert Major General Yash Mor (Retd) was harsher on the strategy, calling it a "play of words." He stated that hiring soldiers on a short-term contract is not a smart idea as 75 percent of them will be unemployed after four years. "In this country, IPL rights are sold for huge sums, but we are unable to pay our soldiers?" he told NDTV.
Some applicants, too, saw little benefit in the Agnipath initiative, claiming that it will have no good consequences for people planning to join the defense forces. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs, however, moved to ease such anxieties on Wednesday by stating that these troops will be given preference in recruitment to central armed police forces and Assam Rifles.
The "Agniveers" will be entitled to a salary package of Rs. 4.76 lakh in the first year and will get up to Rs. 6.92 lakh in the fourth and final year, said reports. They will also get a non-contributory life insurance cover of Rs. 48 lakh for their tenure in the Indian Armed Forces. However, they won't be entitled to gratuity and pension benefits.
"Agniveers" will also get a "Seva Nidhi" of approximately Rs. 11.71 lakh that would aid them to pursue their future dreams. It will also be exempted from income tax. After the four-year service stint, they can contribute to the nation-building process and each "Agniveer" will be given a certificate for the skills attained by them that can also be a part of their resume.