Battles are getting increasingly dependent on high-end technology. With this, the need for nimble soldiers today is greater than ever before. Major countries have been adopting different ways to forge harmony between sophisticated weapon systems and soldiers operating them. Countries are also steadily opting for a young armed force. India, too, has been alive to the need for reducing the average age of the men in uniform.
India’s battlefields are varied and complex. These extend from glacial heights to coastal plains, from marshy lands to dense jungles, from hilly terrain to deserts. Our men at the border have been living in the most challenging weather conditions. They need to be of the right age and perfect physical state to not only feel comfortable in freezing cold but remain agile enough to fight the adversary on the snow and win. Need for a young armed force has been felt since the Kargil Wars, Indian operations in Sri Lanka and during border confrontations with neighbouring countries and handling cross-border terrorists.
Huge share of the country’s defence budget, however, is spent on the salary and pension of armed force personnel leaving a small share for capital acquisitions. This continuing imbalance needs correction. Induction of Agniveer addresses this critical issue. Some references of course have been made on the virtue of traditional recruitment on the basis of clan and there is a plea not to disturb this approach by inducting Agniveers from wider segments of society. It is true that for years, the Indian Army recruited men in large numbers from a few areas of the country where loyalty to the clan was predominantly noticed and was perceived as an asset for an effective Army. But subsequently the country opted for recruiting men from different states. Selection of Agniveers would only follow that pattern and therefore should not cause worry.
That the Government has revealed its determination to go ahead with the new scheme even while some political forces have been asking for a rollback of the arrangement, is a welcome development. Rightly, a clear message has also gone to agitators that doors of the Armed Forces are closed for those indulging in violence and destruction of property. Both the Centre and Armed Forces are now all set to begin the recruitment through the recently launched Agnipath scheme.
Air Marshal Suraj Kumar Jha on Sunday (June 19, 2022) announced that the registration process for the enrollment in the first batch of Agniveers will commence on June 24 and subsequently, the online examination process will begin a month later.
Is the new arrangement against the interest of the young job aspirants in the age group of 17-and-half to 21 years who would be joining the Armed Forces as Agniveers only for four years? Does it mean a letdown of the aspirations of those youths who dreamt of a career in the Armed Forces and earn pension after rendering the stipulated length of service?
This would appear as a serious human issue and needs a careful analysis. The Agniveers would be subject to selection for absorption in the Armed Forces after four years and 25 percent of them found suitable would continue in the Armed Forces. The rest would receive a reasonable amount as a severance package which would help the disengaged Agniveer in organising a new job for himself. In the meantime the government has reserved 10% of vacancies in Central Para Military Forces for the disengaged Agniveers. Many States have already come forward to recruit them for the state police as well. Public and Private sector enterprises are also positively inclined to engaging such candidates.
In the political cacophony following the announcement of the induction of Agniveers, a major social benefit fallout seems to have been lost. People have rushed with zeal to condemn the new arrangement. Diabolical plots have been scripted to torch railway coaches and to indulge in arson on a wide scale. People have been brought to the streets to agitate without many of them even knowing why they have been asked to agitate. It is significant that the government has come out with clarification that the intake of Agniveers would progressively increase. This means, after four years, the society would steadily get enriched with larger number of well trained, disciplined young men and women who would add quality to the country’s workforce whom the organised sector would be most willing to recruit.
There is a huge difference between a 40-year-old ex-serviceman and a 22-year-old ex-Agniveer in terms of employable qualities. Steady inflow of well-trained and disciplined disengaged Agniveers into the society would surely impact the quality of country’s youths in this age group and induce them to be more disciplined and productive– a huge social dividend our economy would benefit from.
The Armed Force of our country has always been a highly professional organisation, built over decades by sweat and blood of millions of brave and selfless soldiers who have dedicated their lives for the safety of the country and its countrymen. Its greatest asset has been its apolitical heart and its professional integrity and competence. How the Force would emerge more competent and remain ever battle ready is best left to be decided by our experts with the final call being taken by the political executive. Attempts to politicise the issue should be avoided. The merits of having a young armed force and a cost-effective Armed Force have been deliberated for years and finally Agniveers have emerged. The new Avatar represents a paradigm shift, and it needs to be welcomed rather than objected to.
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are the author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same. The author can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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