The Agnipath recruitment scheme row has spread to more parts of the country after Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. The country witnessed angry protests across 7 states on Friday, with the agitation entering the third consecutive day. The Agnipath scheme, announced on Tuesday, seeks to recruit soldiers in the three wings of the armed forces on a short-term contract basis of four years.
The youths between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 years would be inducted for a four-year tenure while 25% of the recruits will be retained for regular service. The plan according to government is to recruit 46,000 Agniveers this year.
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The Central government says the scheme aims to bring down the average age of personnel and reduce the defence expenditure. However, several defence aspirants, military veterans and opposition leaders have raised reservations on it. They say it can potentially affect the future of serving personnel, hit the professionalism and ethos and fighting spirit of the forces.
5 points of contention on Agnipath scheme
1. Aspirants want a full tenure of 15 years, whereas in the Agnipath scheme only 25% of the Agniveers will be retained for the next 15 years. Protestors want higher salaries with more years of experience and a pension once they retire.
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2. Under the Agnipath scheme, those recruited will be paid a lumpsum of Rs 11.5 lakh after completion of four years of service. They will not get any gratuity, pension or any other retirement benefits.
3. Some retired service officers fear this recruitment method could impact the organisational ethos and operational effectiveness of the armed forces.
4. Some critics also have an apprehension that the Agnipath scheme would change the composition of several regiments that recruit youths from specific regions as well as castes such as Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs. However, government says there will be no change in that system. Former Army chief General VP Malik has already clarified that the regimental system will continue to be there.
5. The Union Home Ministry has said that those ‘Agniveers’ who wish to obtain jobs will be given priority in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), but many defence analysts believe that there is no guarantee to it.