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Agnipath scheme for armed forces: Defence veterans have mixed reaction

india | Jun 15, 2022 5:22 PM IST

Agnipath scheme for armed forces: Defence veterans have mixed reaction

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Agnipath divides defence veterans as some say scheme intends to cut pension bills while other see ready army for war situations.

Defence veterans are divided over the government's Agnipath recruitment scheme for the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force on a short-term contractual basis. While some believe it is a measure to cut pension bills, some others say the scheme would help in creating huge trained manpower that would help the country in a war-like situation.

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The government on Tuesday unveiled the Agnipath scheme whereby India's youth can serve in the defence forces for four years as against a longer tenure. Only 25 percent of those who are recruited under Agnipath would be re-inducted as permanent soldiers in the armed forces. The scheme is applicable at the soldier level and not the officer level. The government said 46,000 Agniveers would be recruited this year.
Colonel (Retd) VN Thapar told CNBC-TV18 that financial aspects are gaining priority over security, and the scheme is just a cover-up to cut pension bills.
The first-year monthly salary would be Rs 30,000, from which Rs 9,000 would go to a corpus with an equal contribution from the government. In the second, third and fourth years, they will get Rs 33,000, Rs 36,500, and Rs 40,000, respectively. Agniveers will get a non-contributory life cover of Rs 48 lakh till they are serving and also get a tax-exempt amount of Rs 11.71 lakh as 'Seva Nidhi Package'. But there will be no entitlement to gratuity and pension.
"The armed forces have proved itself many a time, and this scheme is ill-timed. The armed forces are not a thing to be experimented with. It takes a long time to make a soldier; one has to go undergo a lot of training, face hardship; be mentally and physically prepared for the tough terrains of Siachen, Kargil," Thapar said.
He added that these youth would join forces with a contractual frame of mind, and the scheme's benefit would only be known on the battlefield. "The scheme should have been implemented step-by-step," he said.
Major General (retd) Jagi Mahil told CNBC-TV18 he felt the scheme was just a gimmick as the government wanted to save on pension bills. "Youth will be in service for just four years with no guarantee of re-induction. They won't want to lose their limbs or lives for four years of service. A political decision has been taken, and there is no point in discussing it," Mahil said.
Giving a different view of the scheme, Major (retd) Chandrakant Singh said the Agnipath scheme would help train 50,000 youth every year.
"The scheme will have long-term implications. The Russia-Ukraine war was believed to get over in a month, but it has been over 100 days. For such a long-term war, a country needs material and manpower. With this scheme, you will have 50,000 trained manpower every year who could be there to fight," he said.
He added that it is not right to say that these youth would not be loyal or lack the spirit of a soldier as it is very subjective.
"I have commanded a regiment with emergency commissioned officers and short service commissioned officers, and they were equally good," Singh said.
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