Agnipath recruitment scheme: In a major overhaul of the recruitment process and service conditions for Indian military, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government Tuesday cleared a short-service scheme for the country’s youth to join the military on contract basis, serve for four years and then go back to the civilian life. It is aimed at attracting the youth to join the military for a short term period that will help cut the pension and wages bill that eats up a large chunk of the country’s defence budget, not leaving adequate amount for capital acquisitions and modernization.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the new scheme at a media briefing in New Delhi, shortly after the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved it.
“The Agnipath recruitment scheme is a transformative initiative that will provide a youthful profile to the armed forces,” Singh said.
The revolutionary changes in the recruitment process will see the induction of the soldiers initially for a period of four years and some of them would be retained.
“Under the Agnipath (the Path of Fire) scheme, Indian youngsters will be provided an opportunity to serve in the armed forces as ‘Agniveer’ (fire-warrior),” the defence minister said.
While three-fourth of the youth joining under the scheme will be retired after four year of service, one fourth will be retained for a longer period.
Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said the scheme will ensure a wider talent pool for recruitment in the armed forces. He said women will also be inducted into armed forces under it.
Army chief General Manoj Pande said the scheme aims to bring a paradigm shift in recruitment in the armed forces. It will help ensure optimum balance between youth and experience in the Army, he added. General Pande said the Army’s operational capability will be fully maintained during the initial implementation stage of the scheme.
The ‘Agnipath’ scheme, earlier known as ‘Tour of Duty’, was launched in the presence of the chiefs of the three services.
The new scheme was announced after extensive deliberations on it over the last two years as it received mixed response from the veterans with some of them strongly opposing the idea.
The soldiers to be recruited under the scheme will be called ‘Agniveer’ or Fire Warrior.
Currently, the Army recruits young people under the short service commission for an initial tenure of 10 years, which is extendable up to 14 years.
The scheme is aimed at slashing the salary and pension bills of the three services, which have been increasing rapidly. The defence budget of INR 5.25 trillion for FY 2022-23 (April-March 2023) included over INR 1.19 trillion for defence pensions.
The allocation for revenue expenditure was INR 2.33 trillion. The revenue expenditure includes the expenses on payment of salaries and maintenance of establishments.