ISSN 2330-717X

Apprehensions Over India’s Agnipath Scheme – OpEd

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In a highly controversial decision, Indian authorities launched Agnipath Recruitment Scheme to induct youngsters into the tri-services for a short term. The scheme has already stimulated mass protests across India by the army aspirants, the protest is also joined by the farmers in Punjab who had already given a tough time to the Indian government through a year-long procession against three controversial laws resulting in the government’s defeat and cancelation of the farm laws.

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Agnipath scheme will recruit the youth between the age bracket of 17-and-half years to 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 % of them for 15 more years under a regular cadre. Later the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.

The government called those enlisted under this scheme as Agniveers who will be banned from revealing any confidential information obtained during the four-year service period to any unauthorized person or source under the Official Secrets Act-1923.

However, it seems like the scheme utterly failed to attract the aspirants as they went on protesting violently against the Agnipath. The angry youth provoked by the government’s flawed policies burnt trains and vandalized public properties in 19 states across India causing severe damage. 

According to media reports, the East-Central Railway area suffered property damage worth 241 crores and the authorities are also estimating that a total loss during the Agnipath protests could reach one thousand crores.

During the ongoing protests, job seekers also demanded that the government should revoke the new plan and preserve the policy that would offer them a career that usually continues for twenty years and offers a pension at the end of the service.

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Students and army aspirants say that all their hard work to join the armed forces has been wasted because even if they manage to get a job, it will only last for four years and only 25 % of recruits will offered with a permanent cadre.

Protesting students believe that after their service period lapses, they would be forced to take third or fourth-grade jobs as they would not have any specialized degree or special qualifications. Also, the non-provision of pensions will compel them to take jobs as security guards in the private sector.

Aman Pandey, a student protesting in Bihar’s Arrah, while discussing his thoughts with Indian media said that the government should offer age relaxations as there has been no recruitment in the Army during the Covid-19 period, and many aspirants who had been preparing for the recruitment for years have turned over age.

Furthermore, there are about 1.25 lakh vacancies that are unfilled in the Indian army, and the government had not tried to fill those vacant positions for three years. However, this year, only 46,000 youth will be inducted into the forces under the Agnipath scheme leaving thousands of aspirants unattended.

Those aspiring for Indian armed forces jobs also alleged that by this move, the BJP government may be doing away with government jobs and impermanent contracts could be the future of the government sector in India.

Also, the Agnipath scheme envisages an “all India, all class” recruitment system. Trepidations have been voiced against the scheme that how the new recruits will be attuned to the current system under which most of the Indian army units are region, caste, or class-based.

There are other apprehensions that are being overlooked. The Agniveers that are supposed to be of having military-grade training, after completing their four-year tenure in the army could pose a serious threat to the public order and the rival neighbors. The unemployed Agniveers could be hired as private militia by extremists and mafias against their domestic and foreign adversaries.

The future of the Agnipath scheme looks vague as it appears like an ill-orchestrated plan without perceiving its future consequences. With the support of opposition parties, protests may last for a long period of time and compel the government to roll back the much-contended recruitment scheme.

The writer is a Muzaffarabad AJK-based freelance journalist and security expert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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