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Agnipath on the boil: All about the defence hiring scheme and changes made to stop unrest

Hundreds of protestors across several states resorted to damaging the public property, while the Opposition has sharpened attacks on the BJP dispensation over the 'hasty' announcement

June 20, 2022 / 08:21 AM IST
Approved by Union cabinet on June 14, the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme aims at annually inducting over 40,000 youth into army, navy and air force for a period of four years. It has been met with wide scale protests. (Image: AP)

Approved by Union cabinet on June 14, the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme aims at annually inducting over 40,000 youth into army, navy and air force for a period of four years. It has been met with wide scale protests. (Image: AP)

Amid protests raging across large swathes of the country, the Agnipath Scheme for recruitment in armed forces continued to face intense political opposition from various parties, with party leaders sharpening attack on the BJP dispensation over the "hasty" announcement on Sunday.

Hundreds of protestors across several states resorted to damaging the public property. The movement of over 350 trains were affected because of the agitation over the scheme as protestors set rail coaches on fire, burnt tyres and blocked railway tracks. Angry mob threw stones and raised slogans, demanding rollback of the scheme.

Follow our LIVE coverage of the Agnipath protests here

Here is a list of all amendments and assurances that the Centre and ministers have announced since the protests broke out:

— As the protestors alleged that they would be left in the lurch with no retirement benefits after serving four years in the armed forces under the scheme, the ministries of home affairs and defence announced concessions and incentives that will assist the retirees in their further employment.

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— The government on June 16 night increased the upper age limit for recruitment under the 'Agnipath' scheme to 23 years from 21 for the year 2022.

— The home ministry on June 18 said it will reserve 10 percent vacancies for recruitment in CAPFs and Assam Rifles for Agniveers.

— The MHA also decides to give a three-year age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit to Agniveers for recruitment in CAPF and Assam Rifles.

— Further, for the first batch of Agniveer, the age relaxation will be for five years beyond the prescribed upper age limit, the MHA said. At present, jawans in the 18-23 age bracket are recruited into the paramilitary forces.

Also Read | Agnipath scheme: IAF releases details for death and disability compensation

— A 10 percent reservation will be implemented in the Indian Coast Guard and defence civilian posts, and all the 16 Defence Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs), according to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's office. It said this reservation would be in addition to the existing quota for ex-servicemen.

— Defence PSUs will be advised to make similar amendments to their respective recruitment rules. Necessary age relaxation provision will also be made, the announcement said.

— The Centre has indicated that other departments are also working in this direction after several BJP-ruled states such as Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Assam encouraged youths to apply under the Agnipath scheme and assured them reservation.

— Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the PSUs under his housing and petroleum ministries are working on hiring Agniveers.

— The Rajasthan council of ministers on June 18 passed a resolution demanding the withdrawal of the Centre's Agnipath scheme. The resolution was passed unanimously during a meeting held at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's residence here, as per a release.

Also Read | Centre lines up incentives for Agnipath recruits as protests spread to more states

— The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) on June 18 announced six service avenues for smooth transition of Agniveers in various roles of the Merchant navy, post their stint with the Indian Navy.

— According to an official statement, the scheme will enable Agniveers to acquire necessary training, with naval experience and professional certification to join the remunerative merchant navy across the world. These schemes include transition from ratings in the Indian Navy to certified ratings in Merchant Navy, transition from electrical ratings in Indian Navy to certified electro-technical ratings in Merchant Navy, transition from ratings in Indian Navy to certified class IV-NCV CoC holder in Merchant Navy.

However, repeated assurances by Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and the Army Chief General Manoj Pande have so far failed to cut the ice with hordes of angry youth.

Specifics of the Agnipath scheme so far:

— Unveiling the scheme on June 14, the government said youths in the 17 and-a-half and 21 years age group would be inducted for a four-year tenure while 25 percent of them to be inducted to regular services subsequently.

— The recruits under the scheme would be called 'Agniveer'. The scheme aims to induct over 40,000 youths into army, navy and air force every year for a period of four years.

— As part of the scheme, the enrolled youth would draw a monthly package along with risk and hardship allowances, as applicable in the three services.

— A major objective of the scheme is to bring down the average age of military personnel and cut ballooning salary and pension bills. It is designed to enable a younger profile for the armed forces, and will depute the soldier – who’ll be called 'Agniveers' – to serve the security forces for four years.

— They would form a distinct rank with in the armed forces, different from the existing ranks. This, according to the government, will help the armed forces have a “younger, fitter, and more diverse profile for facing future challenges”.

— The monthly salary of an 'Agniveer' in the first year of employment would be Rs 30,000 and the in-hand amount would be Rs 21,000 as Rs 9,000 would go to a corpus with an equal contribution from the government.

— Subsequently, the monthly salary in the second, third and fourth year will be Rs 33,000, Rs 36,500 and Rs 40,000. Each 'Agniveer' will get an amount of Rs 11.71 lakh as 'Seva Nidhi Package' and it will be exempted from income tax.

— The four-year tenure under the new scheme will include around two-and-half months to six months of training periods.

Agnipath on pause?

It does not seem like the scheme is halted. Unfazed by the intensifying protests, the Army, Navy and the Air Force on June 17 announced that they will start the enrolment process under the new model by next week.

Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari told PTI that the selection process by the Indian Air Force (IAF) for recruitment under the new scheme will start from June 24, while the Army said it will begin the initial exercise within two days.

In fact, an IAF release on June 19 showed that the four-year period remains unchanged, while detailing information in regards to compensation for death and disability. There is also scope for ex-Agniveers to be selected and enrolled in the IAF as regular cadre on completion of four years.

The Indian Navy has also said it will start the recruitment process "very soon". A senior naval commander said the notification for the recruitment will be out within a week.

The three services are planning to deploy the first batches of recruits under the new scheme, both in operational and non-operational roles, by June next year, senior military officials said.
Jocelyn Fernandes
first published: Jun 19, 2022 01:11 pm
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