The government on Tuesday unveiled its new Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers across the three services. The new defence recruitment reform, which has been cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security, will come into effect immediately, and the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be called Agniveers.
What is the Agnipath scheme?
Under the new scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the service in just four years. Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission. The move will make the permanent force levels much leaner for the over 13-lakh strong armed forces in the country.
This will, in turn, considerably reduce the defence pension bill, which has been a major concern for governments for many years.
What is the eligibility criteria?
The new system is only for personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers).
Under the Agnipath scheme, aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 21 years will be eligible to apply. The recruitment standards will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.
What happens after selection?
Once selected, the aspirants will go through training for six months and then will be deployed for three and a half years.
During this period, they will get a starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
Importantly, during this period, 30 per cent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest.
At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free.
They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years.
In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
However, after four years, only 25 per cent of the batch will be recruited back into their respective services, for a period of 15 years.
For those who are re-selected, the initial four-year period will not be considered for retirement benefits.
When will the recruitment actually begin?
Recruitment will begin within 90 days under the scheme which will bring “all India, all class” recruitment to the services.
This is especially significant for the Army, where the regiment system has region and caste bases, and with time that will be eliminated to allow anybody from any caste, region, class or religious background to become part of existing regiments.
How will the scheme benefit the armed forces and the recruits?
The average age in the forces is 32 years today, which will go down to 26 in six to seven years, the scheme envisions.
It will create “future-ready” soldiers, said Lt Gen Anil Puri, additional secretary, Department of Military Affairs.
Announcing the scheme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said that “efforts are being made that the profile of the Armed Forces should be as youthful as the wider Indian population.” A youthful armed forces will allow them to be easily trained for new technologies.
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The minister added that it will increase employment opportunities and because of the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service such soldiers will get employment in various fields.
“This will also lead to availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP growth,” Singh said.
Lt Gen Puri said the government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. They will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses. The impetus will be to create entrepreneurs, he added.