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Novice soldiers will increase in the army with ‘Agniveer’


Vijay Shankar Singh
The central government has come up with a new scheme of short duration appointments in the Indian Army, ‘Agneepath’. The government says that its main objective is to reduce unemployment in the country as well as reduce the burden of salary and pension on the defense budget. According to some knowledgeable people with military experience, this plan has raised many concerns. One, it threatens the ‘militarization’ of society. Secondly, this can lead to many law and order problems when a large number of youth trained to use weapons return to service after completion of their tenure.

Till now the duty of a physically and mentally fit jawan is for 10 to 15 years. Due to this plan, the number of ‘newbie’ soldiers in the Indian Army will increase, who may also be unable to face the challenges from the enemy countries. Till now the duration of training is one year. The duration of training under this scheme will be 6 months. Agniveers to be recruited will also be deployed on the battle front and their role will be no different from that of any other soldier. Also, the age-old regimental structure of the armed forces may also be disrupted due to this plan.

Some such news has come in this regard, quoting sources, that the purpose of this scheme is to reduce the burden of increasing salary and pension. Under this scheme, the government will save on pension as well as other allowances. Attractive hefty salary packages for firefighters, ex-servicemen status and contribution to health schemes will not be required.

Youth protest against Agneepath scheme in Chennai (Photo: PTI)

Take. General PR Shankar described it as ‘Kindergarden Army’ and said, ‘This scheme is being started without adequate manpower and capacity. Under this, less trained youth will become part of a sub-unit and then without any emotion will join the race to secure their jobs. These soldiers will be expected to wield weapons systems like BrahMos/Pinaka/Vajra which they cannot handle and will also be expected to defend themselves in the face of Pakistan-Chinese. We may be making Abhimanyu, but he will not be able to come out of the Chakravyuh.’

Another retired lieutenant general, on the condition of anonymity, said, “It is unfortunate that those who decided to bring this scheme have no knowledge of the army. Neither he nor his children would have ever served in the army. An argument is being made in support of this plan that there is this plan in Israel and there compulsory military training is given to all civilians. But unlike Israel, India is a vast, multicultural and diverse country. Compulsory military education, even if it is to be given, can be given by making NCC compulsory in all schools and colleges. This requirement can also be done in all private educational institutions. NCC was once mandatory too. Along with discipline and military tradition, weapons training was also given there.

It is also being said that more young soldiers will be available in the army. However, Agniveer, who has been in service for four years, will neither get salary allowances like regular jawans nor will he get pension and other facilities of medical, canteen after retirement. After completing four years of service, when such armed youths come back to their homes after retiring, should the government not think about a long and uncertain future filled with unemployment? This will not only have a psychological effect on them, but it will also have a social impact on their family members. Jobs, especially military jobs, evoke a sense of reassurance. Parents keep a thousand dreams about such young soldiers. Those youth also keep inspiring the youth around them. But, after four years of service, when they suffer the depression arising out of unemployment, what will be the consequences on the society and on them, it should be kept in mind.

The government should compulsorily employ Agniveers after four years of service. This is not a professional course that people will adjust anywhere. The government should also think about this problem. Pension starts getting after being MP/MLA for one year, then why can’t pension be given to a soldier who has served for four years?

In the army from general to jawan, every person is just a soldier. Ranks and badges are also not used during war. Soldiers up to the rank of colonel command by staying ahead in battle. Every regiment has its own pride and history, which inspires them in battle. If the firefighters recruited in Agneepath do not get the same pay, allowances, amenities as regular recruits, then it will be a violation of the law of equal pay for equal work. Discontent in a military force is fatal.

(The writer is retired IPS)

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are those of the author.

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