“Discipline is the foundation of the Indian army. There is no space for arson and vandalism.”
Lt General Anil Puri
Army is the most important possession of any country. Indian Army is the second-largest military force in the world. The Indian army budget is the third largest in the world and the Indian army has the largest number of volunteers. With such a huge army, India is moving way forward in becoming a soft power. The Indian army had engaged in several wars including the proxy war of 1947, the 1962 Indo-China war, the 1965 Indo-Pak war, and the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. The Indian budget focuses on the needs of the futuristic soldier and the Indian defense system.
To make this Indian army world’s largest, the government of India introduced the Agnipath scheme on 14th June 2022 for the recruitment of soldiers below the rank of commissioned officers to three different branches of the Indian army. In this article, we will analyze the impact of the Agnipath scheme on socio-economic dynamics.
Agniveers, Agniparreksha, Samridhiveers, Tooth-to-Tail ratio, Kargil review committee, Youth population
With the introduction of the Agnipath scheme on 14th June 2022, huge violence was seen in different parts of the country. As per this scheme, soldiers will be recruited only for 4 years. After four years some of them will be permanently recruited however rest will be demobilized. This scheme is not followed only in India. However similar schemes are also followed in other countries that we will be discussing later in the research paper.
In this research paper, secondary sources are used for research. It includes newspapers, magazines, journals, articles, etc
REVIEW OF LITERATURE
“Agnipath recruitment scheme is a game-changer initiative for the armed forces and it is going to act as a force multiplier in making the Indian military one of the best in the world with a youthful outlook” Rajnath Singh, Minister Of Defence. As said by the defense minister this scheme will have positive consequences.
However, some concerns are shown by the youth population as this scheme will be the game changer for their future as well along with the future of the country. There are different aspects to this scheme. For some people, it is the scheme for the inclusion of the youth population in the Indian Armed Forces, and for some people, it is the gateway for degrading the emerging qualities of youth and also for declining patriotism in the youth.
WHAT IS AGNIVEER SCHEME?
- The union cabinet decided to recruit youth through the new scheme known as the AGNIPATH SCHEME to other ranks in the Indian army. The following are the features of the Agnipath scheme:
- The recruited soldiers will be known as the Agniveers.
- Candidates aged 17.5 to 21 will be eligible to enroll in this Agnipath scheme.
- Agniveers will be appointed for 4 years only; after 4 years, 25% will be permanent. The rest 75% will be demobilized.
- The soldiers will receive a monthly payment of 30,000-40,000 and at the end of 4 years no pension will be provided to them but a wholesome amount of 11.7 lacks will be paid. This will be known as the Seva Nidhi package.
- However in the case of death during the service, the amount of 1 crore will be provided to the soldier’s representatives.
MAIN OBJECTIVE OF THE AGNIPATH SCHEME
According to the government, this is one of the schemes to boost the strength of the Indian army and make the Indian army self-reliant. It will help in making the Indian army tech-savvy, well-equipped, and ready to face future challenges.
- INCLUSION OF THE YOUTH POPULATION
The main objective of the Agnipath scheme is to include youth in the Indian armed forces. Since India has also surpassed China in terms of population and also when 65% of India’s population is under 35 years and also India is the biggest resource of the largest youth population then India must utilize this to the fullest. Hence the government of India must try to include youth by providing them with temporary jobs for 4 years. After 4 years of recruitment, only the best 25% will be selected for permanent commission. This scheme helps in reducing the average age in the Indian army from 32 to 26 said, General Manoj Pande.
- REDUCE THE BURDEN OF PENSION
The second benefit of this scheme is that it will reduce the burden of pensions. Since the government spends a huge budget on pensions, now it can use that money for new armed technologies. The defense budget of Rs 5,25,166 crore for 2022-2023 includes Rs1,19,696 crore for defense pensions. It is also the third largest budget after the US and China.
- GENERATE EMPLOYMENT
The next objective is to increase the employment rate in India. Although it’s been for 4 years only, in a single year 46,000 people are getting employed And after four years these people will try to secure other jobs as they will become responsible in those 4 years.
LACUNAS AND ALLEGATIONS ON THE AGNIPATH SCHEME
Huge protests are being seen against this Agnipath scheme. Nearly half of the states are seeing protests. Trains are being burnt, stones are thrown and a situation of violence is seen in many parts of India. Trains set on fire in Kaimur and Chhapra districts of Bihar; MLA’s vehicle attacked in Bihar, BJP office vandalized; Railways canceled 34 trains amid uproar in several States; 15 police personnel injured, vehicles torched in Haryana.
- NO PENSION
- According to youth, this is the answer to the government’s arbitrary policies. Opposition parties opposed this policy by saying, “Modi ji hear the voice of unemployed youth and stop taking their Agnipareeksha by making them move on Agnipath.”
- One of the main concerns is regarding the pension. As no pension will be given to the soldiers recruited for 4 years. The scheme offers no gratuity or pension benefits. Also, they will not be provided with the canteen store department facilities (CSD), ex-servicemen status, etc. According to general GD Bakshi,” Was flabbergasted by the Agniveer scheme. I thought initially it was a trial being done on a pilot basis. This is an across-the-board change to convert Indian armed forces to a short-tenure quasi-conscript force like the Chinese. For God’s sake PLEASE DON’T do it.”
- Lieutenant General Raj Kadyan, former Vice Chief of the Army Staff, had opposed the move when he was in service. In his view, this kind of scheme “should be tried out in a low-risk organization. We are trying it out in the defense forces, where the risk is very high…. I only hope and pray there is no war. If there’s [going to be a] war, you don’t expect a man who is already looking beyond four years to be committed to the extent that he can lay down his life,”
- EFFECT ON TOOTH-TO-TAIL RATIO
Tooth-to-tail ratio:- A term used in the military simply means the ratio of other jawans for each soldier deployed on the border to deliver essential supplies or support. The total number of combat arms (infantry and mechanized forces) and support services (logistics, maintenance, medical) of the Indian Army is referred to as the tooth-to-tail ratio. If there is a war, and in this war, the army units that fight directly are called teeth. Other units that support the direct combat units are called tails. However, it should not be understood only in terms of war. Hence this short-term recruitment will lead to a poor tooth-to-tail ratio.
- RECRUITMENT FOR ONLY 4 YEARS
- The next concern is regarding recruitment only for 4 years. According to the youth, what will they do after 4 years if all their hard work is only for 4 years? What is the benefit of doing this? According to them, their future is insecure. Also, short-term recruitment leads to a poor tooth-to-tail ratio ( a military jargon used to denote the amount of military personnel it takes to supply and support “tail” each combat “tooth”.)
- Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia, paratrooper and former Director General of Military Operations, spoke to the media and also made his opposition to the move clear: “On ToD [Tour of Duty], pray & hope that Agneepath succeeds, for the sake of the nation, armed forces and the Agniveers. The government will need to take ownership and ensure it succeeds as the process is irreversible and high risk.” Later he told an Internet-based television channel: “I am a paratrooper, I take risks, but this is not a risk I would’ve taken; the Fauj ethos may change.”
- The Agnipath scheme also does away with the idea of a State Wise quota for recruitment into the Army, based on the Recruitable Male Population of that State which was implemented in 1966. This prevented an imbalanced army, which was dominated by any one State, linguistic community, or ethnicity, as it happened in the case of Pakistan with its province of Punjab. ” Academic research shows that the high level of ethnic imbalance has been associated with severe problems of democracy and an increased likelihood of civil war, a worrying scenario for today’s India where federalism is being severely tested by the ruling party’s ideology”
- The British Indian Army had nearly 2.5 million soldiers after the war, of which it retired 2 million. These were young men, war-hardened, skilled in using weapons, who had lived through the worst. They were back in villages in 1947. Having a large number of army-trained but unemployed youth, in their early 20s is never a comforting thought.
IMPACT OF SIMILAR SCHEMES ACROSS THE WORLD
- UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
A similar scheme is followed in the USA for recruiting soldiers however according to facts it has been proved that 11% of the homeless population in the USA is veterans. In America, there are high chances of a veteran becoming unemployed as compared to a normal American. One of the biggest reasons for this is the faulty pension system of America.
To recruit soldiers for their Armed Forces, Russia has used a hybrid model of conscription and contracting. Conscripts serve a one-year term before being placed on reserve. All male citizens aged 18–27 are subject to conscription for one year of active duty military service in the Armed Forces beginning in 2021. Contract soldiers are assigned to critical battle positions and receive extensive training. Conscripts typically work as drivers, cooks, or lower-level maintenance workers.
In China a similar system is followed. Those between the ages of 18 and 22 are drafted into selective compulsory military service for 24 months. In practice, registering does not imply that you will be joining the People’s Liberation Army.
Israel has followed the conscription model since the country’s independence in 1948. It is worth noting here that Arab Israeli citizens are allowed to enlist voluntarily rather than being conscripted. Males must now serve 30 months of mandatory military service, up from 32 months previously, while women must serve 24 months unless they volunteer for a unit that requires additional service time.
REASONS BY GOVERNMENT BEHIND AGNIPATH SCHEME
- According to the government, this scheme is the result of various studies and deliberations such as the Kargil Review Committee, which proposed the retention of soldiers for a shorter duration of time as opposed to the existing structure of 15 to 20 years. The military intake and retention models of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and France were considered by experts to analyze the efficiency and organizational benefits of short-term military service. Hence there is no doubt about the validity of the scheme. Agnipath is not about saving money by way of reduced pension spend but it is a scheme that is about modernizing the Indian armed forces and it is evident from the fact that defense budgets in the past 8 years have gone up from 2.53 lakh crore in 2014 to 5.25 lakh crore in 2022-23!
- To answer one of the concerns which says that after four years these Agniveers will be left with no other option and remain unemployed since they don’t have any higher education, the government said that the Ministry of Education, Ministry of Defense, and Ministry of Skill development and entrepreneurship has signed an MOU for the education of Agniveers and providing them opportunities to complete their bachelor’s degree. The job roles/skill sets of Agniveers, while being trained and deployed with the armed forces, have been mapped with National Occupational Standards (NOS), in coordination with National Skill Development Corporation and Sector Skill Councils,” the defense ministry said. According to Rajnath Singh, by working as Agniveers these people not only contribute to the nation working as SURAKSHAVEERS but also to the progress of the country as SAMRIDDHIVEERS.
- The United States is finding it hard to recruit people in the armed forces. Youngsters are more attracted to the job market rather than the armed forces. The US has reduced the minimum serving period from 4 years to 2 years to make this scheme more attractive for youngsters to make money in the future. US troops are often deployed in remote locations across the globe, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq & now Eastern Europe. Where soldiers are far away from their families for years & one of the major reasons why youngsters are slowly moving away from the armed forces & toward the job market. Not only the United States but even Russia is facing shortages in recruitment & it has now started recruiting foreign fighters for the Russian military. Even countries like France & Germany are discussing compulsory military training for all so that they are prepared to face a crisis. So through the Agnipath scheme, the Indian government is providing an opportunity for all youngsters to be a part of the armed forces.
LEGAL VALIDITY OF THE AGNIPATH SCHEME
- Seeing the huge protest going against the Agnipath scheme several petitions are filed in the Supreme Court challenging the legal validity of the Agnipath scheme. In July 2022 the Supreme Court transfers all PILs filed in different high courts against the Agnipath scheme to Delhi high court.
- “We request the Delhi High Court for expeditious disposal of the writ petitions after hearing the parties,” said the bench comprising Justices D Y Chandrachud, Surya Kant, and A S Bopanna.
- Against this backdrop, we are of the view that the three writ petitions, which have been instituted before this court, should be transferred to the Delhi High Court and renumbered under Article 226 of the Constitution. Ordinarily, we would have disposed of these petitions by granting liberty to the petitioners to move the Delhi High Court afresh but we are desisting from following that course of action, to obviate any further delay in withdrawal of the petitions and filing of fresh petitions,” the bench said.
- Recently on 27 February 2023, the Delhi high court upheld the validity of the Agnipath scheme. The Division Bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad maintained that from the perusal of the material on record, the Agnipath scheme is a well-thought-out policy decision of the Government of India.
“We have extensively gone through the Agnipath Scheme, and can conclusively state that this Scheme was made in the national interest, to ensure that the Armed Forces are better equipped,” the court said. 
- Responding to the petitions that have challenged the constitutional validity of the scheme, the court said “It’s needless to state the four years training period under the scheme would also instill a sense of nationalism in the recruits”, which would “more or less prompt them to use their skills and focus on the development of the country”.”Such advantages cannot be overlooked and dislodged based on the apprehension that after four years such individuals may be unemployed or may take to illegal or unethical activities…,” the court said.
BURSTING THE MYTHS AGAINST AGNIPATH SCHEME
- One of the main allegations of the scheme is that this scheme will consist of young people hence inexperienced people. Critics believed that through these schemes inexperienced army professionals will be trained. Agniveers will be the people who are trained in how to use weapons but not absorbed in the army. Also according to critics, these people can be dangerous to society as they know how to use a weapon and they can commit any crime. However, this is not the true scenario as the army will now have more youth population that will ultimately help in combating the enemy nations in harsh weather conditions and wars. During army training the most important thing that is being taught is discipline. Agniveers will be highly disciplined personnel so there is no chance of these people getting engaged in crimes. The Agnipath scheme, while being advantageous to the defense forces, also gives an excellent opportunity for nation-building. When the National Cadet Corps was raised, multiple options were discussed as to which organization should nurture young and energetic children, and the armed forces were considered the best to do that. It is a success story for the nation that enhances the discipline and national fervor quotient in the youth joining the NCC.
- The next allegation is that after the completion of 4 years, these Agniveers will remain unemployed but this is again a myth as it is already announced by central and several state governments that priority will be given to the Agniveers, especially in police forces and other government jobs. Also one of the most important factors is that these Agniveers will be skilled and it is easy for them to grab job opportunities.
- Another myth is made on the point that no pension will be given to these Agniveers. However, this is again a myth because a sum of 11 lakhs will be given after 4 years and also if we keep national interest on priority. The huge money that is spent on giving pensions can now be used to modernize our forces. Hence all these allegations are made on the scheme to misguide the youth of the country and create a situation of chaos in the country.
HOW TO MAKE AGNIPATH MORE ACCEPTABLE?
After huge protests, it is clear that there are various lacunas including the problem of pension, job security, etc. Also, the battle-winning factor in the Indian army is its regimental system where a soldier associates himself with the regiment and takes pride in his regiment surviving on the battlefield for a long time which will not be the case in the Agnipath scheme. Now the government must include the following points and suggestions to make this Agnipath scheme more acceptable.
- In the first trial, if the government feels that it is an effective scheme then the government must include the scheme for recruiting half of the soldiers, and 50% of vacancies must be filled with the normal method as followed earlier to recruit the soldiers.
- The government must include some provisions to extend the service after the completion of four years. It will maintain the feeling of patriotism in the hearts of the soldiers.
- To ensure that after the completion of four years, these Agniveers do not remain unemployed, the government must reserve some seats in the police forces and private sectors for these retired Agniveer soldiers. As already announced by the central government 10% of seats will be reserved in the Indian coast guard and defense civilian posts and all 16 defense public sector undertakings. Many state governments had also introduced such reservations such as the UP government will give priority to Agniveers in recruitment to police and related services in the state, Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami saying that Agniveers released after four years would be inducted into Uttarakhand Police, Disaster management, and Char Dham management in the state, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has said every Agniveer who is a permanent resident of the state would be absorbed into state police upon their release from the military.
- Another way is that Agniveer graduates should be allowed to appear in the Civil Services examination after 4 years with the UG degree requirement waived off. After a military stint, they will have the chance to serve India in a civilian capacity as well
There are two different opinions regarding the Agnipath scheme. Although it is a scheme through which military expenditure can be reduced, it creates the problem of unemployment and no pension benefits will be given to these Agniveers. This is considered a process driven for financial benefits. One of the major issues with the Agnipath scheme is the rehabilitation of these Agniveers after four years. People serve in the Indian army when recognized for their sacrifices and paid, but after 4 years, these Agniveers will remain unemployed. Hence, the government should ensure that these people will not remain unemployed. They must be rehabilitated.
 Saurav Anand, Agnipath is game changer scheme for armed forces: Rajnath Singh, Mint, Jan. 3, 2023, at 1.
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 Indian Constitution art 226
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