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Thursday, August 18, 2022

No rollback of Agnipath; good for Army, youth: NSA Ajit Doval

National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval said there would be ample employment opportunities for Agniveers as by the time they retire from the forces, India will have a $5 trillion economy and industries will be vying to employ disciplined, trainable youth.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi |
Updated: June 22, 2022 6:50:20 am
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval (File/PTI)

There will be no roll back of the Agnipath scheme as it is for the good of the armed forces and even the youth who get trained through it, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval said on Tuesday. He also said there would be ample employment opportunities for Agniveers as by the time they retire from the forces, India will have a $5 trillion economy and industries will be vying to employ disciplined, trainable youth.

“There is no question of any rollback. This is not a knee jerk reaction. This has been discussed for decades. In 1970s, we had General Krishna Rao Committee of which General Chhibber and General Sundar were members. They talked about reforming the Army, including the manpower policy. Then there was the Arun Singh report in 1989 and then there was a Group of Ministers report… there was Subramaniam Committee report, the Kargil Committee report… All had this consistent refrain that go for a younger Army. But there was a problem. While everybody realized it was necessary, no one had the ability and the will to take the risk,” Doval said in an interview to ANI.

The statement comes amid continuing violent protests across the country over the government’s new scheme for recruitment in the armed forces where youngsters will be recruited only for a period of four years at the jawan level instead of the earlier 15 years.

In an attempt to allay fears of unemployment after four years in the Army, Doval said there was a misunderstanding that had been created.

“We are talking about a young man who is 22 or 23 years old, has done four years of service and now is in the market. This man has become disciplined, has got the capability to work in a team, has learnt skills, developed confidence, is trainable and has got all-India perspective. He is much more equipped to face the society. On top of it, he has been given a qualification equivalent to plus two. Then he will have Rs 11 lakh with him which he can use to study further,” Doval said.

“By the time Agniveer retires, India will be a $5 trillion economy. There will be a lot of opportunities in the private sector. Industries will want to hire people who are disciplined and trainable. Their biggest asset will be their young age. Their future is totally secure,” he added.

On the need for such a scheme, Doval said, “Security is a very dynamic concept. The whole world is going through great change. Increasingly we are going towards contactless war… We must have a young, fit, agile and well-trained Army. It is a contradiction that a country that has the youngest population, has the oldest Army.”

On the fears of the scheme making the Army weak, Doval said, “Agniveer will never constitute the whole Army. They are there for only four years. Rest of the Army will be made up of experienced people. Those Agniveers who become regulars eventually, will go through more intensive training. So Indian Army will always have people who, though recruited as Agniveers, have been selected for their suitability, agility, motivation and aptitude. Selection is one part, but when you observe people over a long period of time, you realise who is an ideal soldier. So, after four years, the people who will join the Army will be crème de la crème.”

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Doval also said that the concept of regiments is not being tinkered with and regiments such as artillery and armoured corps, among others, will remain. Calling caste-based regiments a colonial legacy, Doval said there were very few left in the Army.

Doval also brushed aside fears of Agniveers becoming mercenaries for hire after retirement.

“This fear is totally invalid? I have been in the business of security for the last 55 years. I can tell you, if there is any guarantee in the society to keep peace, stability and rule of law, it will be the civilian population of the country who have to become law abiding. And you will find the best of the law-abiding citizens in these youth who will have nationalist sentiments and protect the national interest and create that environment. In those four years in the forces, only their bodies will not be trained, but even their minds will be transformed. They will become an asset for our internal security when they go into the society,” Doval said.

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On the ongoing protests, Doval said there was opposition from two sets of people, which included Army veterans, who he said were opposing for lack of full information, and those with vested interests.

“These are those who have no concern with the security of the nation nor are they dedicated to the nation. They are conflict entrepreneurs. These are people who will go for stone throwing, demonstrations and burning trains. An Agniveer will never be misled into this. I don’t think any of these people (those protesting) are interested in joining the forces,” he said.

Doval said there was some anticipation of the protests within the government. “We thought these people who have got some vested interest… some people are making money through coaching centres… some want to discredit the government… some want the youth to go against the government… But we are a democracy. But once they transgress those red lines where the limits of their freedom start undermining the country’s security and its law and order, certainly the action has to be taken and has been taken,” Doval said.

On whether the Agnipath scheme and other issues of internal security could have been preceded by more consultation, Doval said, “Management of security is a very layered phenomenon. In some situations, there has to be complete insulation. People should know on the basis of need to know. If there are people who have nothing to contribute and are not accountable and you take them into confidence, probably, once it becomes public, our adversaries will take advantage of that. As far as consultation is concerned, India is a democracy… you find if there are 100 issues, there are 101 opinions. And they are freely expressed from the street to the press.”

Doval asserted that the Agnipath scheme was part of the government’s consistent effort to transform the Army and make it ready for the future. He insisted that it was owing to the strong political will of the prime minister that this was possible.

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“In 2006, Ministry of Defence wrote a letter to the Ministry of Home Affairs that we are thinking of implementing this thing and will the CPMFs be able to take some people… MHA gave a reply that we are forming a committee under the DG BSF to examine the matter. That committee report was never seen by anyone. It was about political will. It can only happen under a PM like Modi, who will say that if this is in the national interest, if this will make India stronger and secure, then no risk is big enough. Even if there is a political cost, I will pay (he will say),” he said.

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First published on: 21-06-2022 at 01:41:33 pm
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