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No rollback of Agnipath scheme; Agniveers intake to go up to 1.25 lakh in future: Dept of Military Affairs

By December first week, the armed forces will get the first batch of 25,000 'Agniveers', Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa, General Officer in the Indian Army, said.

June 19, 2022 / 04:23 PM IST
Additional Secy Lt Gen Anil Puri, Dept of Military Affairs, briefing the press (Image: Twitter/@ANI)

Additional Secy Lt Gen Anil Puri, Dept of Military Affairs, briefing the press (Image: Twitter/@ANI)

The Department of Military Affairs on June 19 categorically ruled out a rollback of the 'Agnipath' military recruitment scheme, which has sparked protests in several parts of the country.

Describing the scheme as essential to maintain a young profile of the armed forces, the department said it would, in the future, increase the intake of 'Agniveers' to up to 1.25 lakh.

The Centre, this year, plans to recruit 46,000 Agniveers -- a reference to soldiers who would be selected for the four-year temporary military service.

"Our intake of 'Agniveers' will go up to 1.25 lakh in near future and will not remain at 46,000 which is the present figure," Additional Secretary Lt Gen Anil Puri, Department of Military Affairs, said during a press briefing.

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

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"In next 4-5 years, our intake (of soldiers) will be 50,000-60,000 and will increase to 90,000 - 1 lakh subsequently. We've started small at 46,000 to analyse the scheme...and to build up infra capacity," he added.

Puri also stressed that the government would not repeal the policy. "There will be no rollback. And why should it be? It is a progressive step to maintain a young force," he said.

"We want a mix of josh and hosh and that is why we wanted to reduce the age profile. The average age is 32 years at present and we want to reduce it as per the recommendations of the Kargil review committee and Arun Singh committee report," he further stated.

The Agnipath policy was, notably, unveiled by the government on June 15 following the clearance from the Cabinet Committee on Security. As per the scheme, aspirants aged 17-21 will be eligible for a temporary recruitment drive. After selection, they would be employed by the armed forces for a four-year period. Following the completion of their term, only 25 percent of the recruits will be retained.

Also Read | Centre extends age limit for Agnipath scheme from 21 to 23 years as one-time waiver amid protests

The retiring soldiers will not be eligible for pension benefits, but will be provided with an amount of Rs 11.71 lakh as the 'Seva Nidhi Package’ and it will be exempted from income tax.

The protesters have called for a rollback of this policy, as the rules under the erstwhile recruitment drive allowed them to serve in the military for a period of 17 years, and also made them eligible for pension and health benefits subsequent to their retirement.

The agitation against the policy turned violent in some states, with instances of arson and vandalism being reported. In Bihar, rail coaches of trains stationed in Danapur were set on fire; in Uttar Pradesh, public vehicles were reportedly targeted; and a person was killed in police firing in Telangana's Secunderabad.

Protests were also reported in parts of Jammu, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan against the scheme.

The Department of Military Affairs, in a stern warning, said those who will be booked by the police will become ineligible to be recruited by the military.

"Indian Army's foundation in discipline. No space for arson, vandalism. Every individual will give a certificate that they were not part of protest or vandalism. Police verification is 100 percent, no one can join without that," Puri said.

"And if any FIR lodged against them, they can't join...They (aspirants) will be asked to write as part of the enrollment form that they were not part of the arson, their police verification will be done," he added.

The chiefs of the military's three service wings also backed the policy during the press briefing, calling it essential to maintain a young and tech-savvy force.

Air Marshal SK Jha, who is serving as the Air Officer-in-Charge Personnel, said Agniveer batch number 1 registration process will start from June 24 and from July 24, phase 1 online examination process would start. "The first batch would be enrolled by December and training would commence by December 30."

Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa, General Officer in the Indian Army, said that by December first week, "we will get the first batch of 25,000 Agniveers", and the second batch would be inducted around February 2023 making it 40,000".

Vice Admiral Dinesh Tripathi said that the Indian Navy will induct women personnel as well through the Agnipath scheme. "Indian Navy has 30 women officers at present sailing on different Indian Navy ships. We have decided that under Agnipath scheme, we will recruit women also. They will be deployed on warships also," he added.

From November 21 this year, the first naval 'Agniveers' will start reaching the training establishment INS Chilka, Odisha, Tripathi noted, further stating that "both female and male Agniveers are allowed for this".
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