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Agnipath- a Pathbreaker?

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Suniel Parihar
Suniel Pariharhttp://sunielparihar.com
Suniel Parihar is an Indian Army veteran and a Positive Psychology Practitioner. A published author, he has written three books viz. India's Spy Agencies : Shaken Not Stirred , 70 Years of India's Independence ( coauthored) , and Heal Yourself to Happiness. When he is not writing, Suniel spends most of his time reading, cooking , meditating and being one with nature.

When the government recently launched Agnipath, its new recruitment scheme for the country’s defence forces, no one expected such a strong opposition from various quarters including the military veterans. Afterall, it’s just a recruitment drive aimed at providing employment to our youth and cutting down pension liabilities of the defence forces. So where did things go wrong?

Agnipath in nutshell

Agnipath is a defence recruitment reform wherein around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually. Of the total annual recruits who will be called Agniveers, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years or so and the rest will have to leave on completion of four years service after a golden handshake.

Why the angst among the youth?

It seems the youth aspiring for a military career are apprehensive about their future and anxious over an element of uncertainty that the scheme entails. The lateral absorption in public sector, central and state police organisations after four years is promised but not assured. Some are protesting for no reason but mob mentality and apparently spurred on by the opposing political parties a la the farmers protest.

Why are the veterans opposing?

This supposedly reformative initiative of the government hasn’t found much support from the military veterans as is evident from views expressed by them in mainstream as well as social media. Most of them feel, inter alia , this scheme will have an adverse effect on combat efficiency of the country’s defence forces.

My take

I think the government seems to have launched the scheme in a bit of hurry sans requisite homework. This is pretty much obvious from the way the scheme is being tweaked to make it more acceptable, which isn’t really a bad thing as it reflects the government’s flexible attitude. This scheme should have been launched as a pilot project for a couple of years and then formalised after due diligence.

A period of four years is too short for turning a green horn into an experienced soldier. It’s actually two years or so, if you deduct the training period , leave and courses etc. A tenure of seven to eight years would be a better deal both for the recruits and the organisation. Of course, this will have financial implications like payment of gratuity , but you still save on the pension.

Talking of reducing the pension bill , which seems to be the raison d’etre behind Agnipath , what about the defence civilians who take away a major chunk of the defence personnel pensions? Haven’t heard anything on that from the government.

In any event, cost cutting should not be done at the expense of national security. The aim of maintaining an army is to win wars; rest everything is secondary. Will the Agniveers win you wars? This only time will tell. It’s a tough call but our defence forces are known to overcome toughest of situations, so chances are they will be able to manage this one too. I remember when I was posted to newly raised Rashtriya Rifles in 1994, many of us weren’t really sure whether this hotchpotch kind of force will be able to deliver the goods. It turned out to be a force to reckon with. Being an eternal optimist, I feel Agnipath ,if suitably modified, may just turn out to be a path breaker.

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Suniel Parihar
Suniel Pariharhttp://sunielparihar.com
Suniel Parihar is an Indian Army veteran and a Positive Psychology Practitioner. A published author, he has written three books viz. India's Spy Agencies : Shaken Not Stirred , 70 Years of India's Independence ( coauthored) , and Heal Yourself to Happiness. When he is not writing, Suniel spends most of his time reading, cooking , meditating and being one with nature.
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