Modi Congratulates Agniveers On Being Pioneers Of Path-Breaking Scheme

Modi Congratulates Agniveers On Being Pioneers Of Path-Breaking Scheme

Addressing the first batch of Agniveers of the three Services, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday congratulated them on being the “pioneers of the path-breaking Agnipath Scheme.”

The prime minister highlighted that this transformative policy will be a game changer in strengthening our Armed Forces and making them future-ready for the challenges that lie ahead.
Under the Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14 last year, the three services are

recruiting youths between the age bracket of 17-and-half years and 21 years for four years with a provision to retain 25 percent of them for 15 more years. For 2022, the upper age limit was extended to 23 years.

Addressing, through video conferencing, the first batch who have commenced their basic training, PM Modi affirmed that the young Agniveers will make the Armed Forces more youthful and tech-savvy.

Hailing the potential of Agniveers, he said that their spirit is reflective of the bravery of the armed forces which has always kept the flag of the nation flying high.

He said that the experience they will acquire through this opportunity will be a source of pride for life.

Prime Minister said, “New India is filled with renewed vigor, and efforts are underway to modernize our armed forces as well as make them Aatmanirbhar.”

He said that in the 21st century, the way wars are fought is changing. Discussing the new fronts of contactless warfare and challenges of cyber warfare, he said technologically-advanced soldiers will play a key role in our armed forces.

“The current generation of youth especially have this potential, and so the Agniveers will play a leading role in our armed forces in the times to come,” he said.

The prime minister also spoke about how the Agnipath scheme will further empower women. He expressed happiness at how women Agniveers are adding pride to the Naval forces and said that he looks forward to seeing women Agniveers in all three forces.

He also recalled how women are leading armed forces on various fronts, citing examples of women soldiers posted in Siachen and women driving modern fighter planes.

Modi said that getting posted in different regions will give Agniveers an opportunity to get diverse experiences and that they should try to learn different languages and also about different cultures and ways of living.

“Teamwork and honing of leadership skills will add a new dimension to their personality. He exhorted Agniveers to remain curious about learning new things while simultaneously working on bettering their skills in the fields of their choice,” the PM said.

Hailing the potential of the youth and Agniveers, Prime Minister concluded by saying that they are the ones who are going to provide leadership to the nation in the 21st century. (ANI)

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Weekly Update: Why Agnipath is A Good Path; How Oppn is BJP’s Strongest Suit

In the first four days after registration opened for recruitment to the Indian armed services, the Indian Air Force (IAF) alone received 94,281 applications. That volume of applications will, in all probability, grow manifold as the days go by and as the other services, the Indian Army and the Indian Navy, tot up the applications they receive.

The announcement of the number of applications that the air force received has done two things. First, it has almost instantly silenced critics of the scheme who were calling it discriminatory and undemocratic. And second, more importantly, it has highlighted what is probably the Indian economy’s toughest challenge: frighteningly large levels of unemployment among the country’s youth.

The Indian government introduced the Agnipath Scheme as a new way of recruiting youth into the armed services at ranks lower than that of commissioned officers. Inducted cadets will get a four-year tenure with a stipend paid to them and at the end of the tenure, 25% of them will be inducted into the services while the rest will get a golden handshake–a sum of ₹12 lakh to start entrepreneurial ventures as well as preference if they want to join police or other state security services.

The background to the scheme is important. The armed services incur a huge outflow of money that goes to pay pensions, salaries and other personnel-related expenses. By some estimates they account for a quarter of India’s defence budget. The Agnipath scheme would alleviate some of those recurring expenses and allow the defence ministry to deploy more funds into critical areas like augmenting defence equipment and modernisation.

However, opposition parties, including the Congress and some other regional parties vehemently opposed the scheme, mainly on the grounds that they felt a more consensual approach ought to have been adopted but also that it discriminated and curbed the rights of new recruits, 75% of whom would leave service after the four-year tenure. But as initial data show, the scheme could turn out to be a hit.

The reason for its appeal is simple and stark. Youth unemployment in India has reached staggering proportions. According to the Times of India, “Youth unemployment in urban areas across India rose sharply to 25.5% in the April-June quarter of 2021 and remained in the double digits thereafter as the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic battered economic activities and dealt a severe impact on jobs.”

Do the maths. Nearly 40% of the Indian population is aged 13 to 35 years (defined as youth in the National Youth Policy). Forty per cent of the population is roughly 560 million people. If we look at the minimum employment age in India, which is 14, we are still talking about at least 500 million employable youth. If 25% of them are unemployed, how serious do you think the problem is?

It is small wonder that the Agnipath Scheme has found growing appeal among young Indians. Jobs in the public sector have not been growing; and in the private sector the emphasis is on automation and leaner workforce with lower wage costs. In scenario such as that if young people have an opportunity to earn and get training for four years and then have a shot at either becoming soldiers, airmen or sailors or, if they aren’t inducted, entrepreneurs, is that not an appealing alternative, say, to driving an auto rickshaw or delivering food from restaurants to people’s homes?

Some more numbers to mull. In the first year, an Agnipath recruit would earn (in-hand) ₹21,000 a month and by the fourth year that would go up to ₹28,000. Not really a bad deal, is it?

India’s Opposition Needs a Plan

Some years ago when the Congress party had started what has now become its free-fall journey into oblivion, one newspaper had written that Rahul Gandhi was the Bharatiya Janata Party’s strongest trump card. Gandhi was then messing up in all possible ways: losing election after election for his party; lacking coherent strategies about any issue that he addressed; and losing the support and respect of his party’s other leaders and functionaries.

Now, one could expand on that cheeky comment and probably say that the BJP’s strongest suit is the Opposition. Besides opposing anything that is proposed or done by the government–the misplaced opposition to Agnipath is a case in point–India’s Opposition parties have little else to get active about. The situation is the same in the states as it is in the Centre.

When was the last time we heard a constructive critique of the Union Budget from any Opposition party? When was the last time an Opposition party leader appraised India’s handling of the Covid pandemic (which, considering the number of people that live in India, has been quite commendable)? Have we ever seen a whitepaper from the Opposition on how India’s unemployment problem ought to be tackled? Or a strategy that addresses our government’s bewildering stance when it comes to international issues such as the Russian aggression in Ukraine? Sadly, India’s Opposition is bankrupt of ideas. And that is why it is the strongest suit in BJP’s hand.

‘Army Is A Family; We Can’t Abandon Our Boys After 4 Years’

Major (Retd) A Singh says he was appalled to see Services Chiefs acting as Govt spokesmen to defend the new recruitment scheme. His take on Agnipath

Although the Agnipath scheme seeks to cut costs for Indian defence establishment – which is a long pending reform – the manner in which the Government launched the scheme is shocking. Any decision or scheme that impacts the masses must pass through a public debate, open discussion and resultant feedback. But, as in the case of GST, demonetisation or 2000 lockdown, the Government has in one swift stroke ruined the ambition and aspiration of millions of youth.

I have served the Indian Army for several years – I voluntarily retired as a Major in 2004 – and I can vouch that such a scheme goes against the ethos of our defence services. Indian Armed Forces serve as a large family unit as per their tradition, culture and ethics. Armed forces are not a tourist venture that will abandon their boys after a four-year tour of duty.

Ideally, such a scheme needs a pilot project and phased implementation. This will entail a small unit of recruits, say 10%, to be hired as Agniveers while the rest follow standard permanent recruitment. On the basis of the pros and cons of the first experimental Agniveer unit, the Defence establishment may decide on its future.

Everyone remembers how many times the entire GST framework and its rulebook were changed to suit the new challenges emerging out of its implementation. Ditto with the decisions of demonetisation and lockdown. How the government seems so cocksure about Agnipath’s success beats me. They haven’t learnt anything from their past mistakes.

ALSO READ: ‘Agnipath Has Burnt Down My Dreams, Career’

I was also appalled at the way our Service chiefs appeared on camera to defend this scheme. Do you remember any such occasion in the 75 years of the glorious history of our defence forces when top commanders had to defend a government action? They were clearly forced to act as the spokesperson of the government.

There have been media reports about the plight of thousands of men who had cleared their physical tests for the Armed Forces and were waiting for their joining letters when suddenly this scheme was announced. There was no consideration about their future despite an assurance from the force.

Out of four years in service for Agniveers, the training period will be of six months and there is also a provision for a nine-month leave period. So practically, the Agniveers will have three years of active duty. Can such a brief training and service period produce a skilled and up-to-the-mark soldier? In addition they will not get the rank of an ex-Serviceman.

Various announcements are being made by private industrial houses to absorb Agniveers after returning from the forces, but it is easy to break a promise after four years. Can they be held accountable for these assurances? And God forbid, how will our police forces tackle a situation when these trained but jobless Agniveers, in desperation for work, join some unlawful venture!

As told to Rajat Rai

(The photo used is representational as the narrator requested anonymity for personal reasons)

‘Agnipath Has Burnt Down My Dreams, Career Preparation’

Anshu Mishra, who was preparing hard to join Indian Army, says the Govt decision on Tour of Duty has destroyed the ambitions of millions of youth. His views:

Wake up at 3.30 every morning. Hit the ground for training around 4.30 AM. Run for around 45 minutes. Exercise for another hour. Attend coaching classes and prepare for the written exam during the day. Repeat the running and exercise routine in the evening. Do it every day, without fail. No Sunday, no rest, no break.

This is not the Army training session, but a usual day of an army aspirant like me. I have been following this routine for the last four years and I am not the only one to do so. There are lakhs of such aspirants all across the country who also follow the same routine every day.

Joining the army and donning the uniform is a passion. There are people in the Indian Army from my family, relatives and friends. Since I turned 18, I have been training hard to join the force. I have also appeared in physical tests during the recruitment drive of the Army. Sadly, I missed being qualified twice in the running test by a whisker. I am 21 years and 9 months old now and I had committed to myself to pass the physical test of Army this time. The government’s Tour of Duty (TOD) or Agnipath announcement consigned all my dreams to flames.

Even If I pass the physical, medical and written test this year, I will be out of the Army after four years. Imagine the irony: I trained for four year to get a job that will retire me after four years! All the effort, practice and commitment have blown up in my face. What will I do after the completion of my four-year tenure in the Army? Back to square one. Does the country have that many private jobs?

ALSO READ: ‘Armed Forces In 21st Century Must Be Lean & Mean’

Most Army aspirants come from humble backgrounds. We also have a lot of pressure from the family to start earning. I recently moved from Bihar to Chhattisgarh in search of a job. Along with my army preparation, I was also doing a job of data operator at a private company there. Last month, I quit the job and came back to my hometown so that I could fully focus on my preparation. Now, this Agnipath decision of the government has burnt down all my dreams. Swaha!

Many students are protesting on the streets and venting out their frustration, but a majority of the aspirants are still in total shock. Our brains are numb. We don’t know what to do, how to react.

I think this is the worst decision of the Modi government and they will have to roll it back. The model of other countries can’t be copied and pasted in India. This policy might have serious repercussions in future. I read some posts on social media that raise concerns about the military-trained youth and unemployment will be a lethal combination. Such a posse of men will be susceptible to and can be recruited by criminal gangs for unlawful activities. Those concerns are right. In search of gainful employment, some youths can take the wrong path.

As told to Md Tausif Alam