Will the Agnipath scheme be revamped?

Context: After the election results, NDA allies raised the issue of Agnipath and called for a discussion on it. The government is open to changes and discussions are on.

About Agnipath Yojana: 

  • Launched in: 2022
  • Nodal ministry: Ministry of Defence
  • Aim: To ensure a youthful profile for the forces.
  • Eligibility: 17.5 to 21 years.
  • Key features: Replaces the permanent recruitment process in the armed forces.
    • It is a new human resource management scheme for the Armed Forces. Candidates inducted through this scheme will be called Agniveers.
    • Agniveers are recruited for four years on completion of which, up to 25% would be selected into the regular ranks on a permanent basis.
    • The Army is inducting 40,000 Agniveers per year and the Navy and Air Force are recruiting around 3,000 Agniveers each. 
    • Agniveers during their tenure can get class 12 certificates or a Bachelor’s degree in addition to other skill certificates and when leaving after four years will get a lumpsum amount but are not eligible for pension. 
    • On completion of the engagement period of four years, Agniveers will be paid a one-time ‘SevaNidhi’ package which shall comprise their contribution including accrued interest thereon and a matching contribution from the Government equal to the accumulated amount of their contribution

About Agnipath Yojana

Benefits of Agnipath Scheme: 

  • It will inculcate values of discipline, sacrifice, teamwork, physical fitness, ingrained loyalty for the country and brotherhood
    • They will be provided with adequate re-employment opportunities for those returning to society and could emerge as role models for the youth. Agniveers will get preference in PSUs, and State Governments’ jobs.
  • After serving the tenure, youth will be able to contribute to other sectors more effectively. Trained personnel will be available to boost national security in times of external threats, internal threats and natural disasters.
  • Modernize the military and provide army with youthful tech savvy soldiers.
  • Across the globe, there is a trend towards reduction in the number of personnel and emphasis on increasing capital expenditure on modern weapons and equipment.

Why is the Agnipath scheme being revamped? 

  • The Army faces a personnel shortage, as 60,000 annual retirements and only 40,000 new recruits yearly, a deficiency exacerbated by the COVID-19 recruitment halt for over two and a half years.
    • The 25% conversion rate to regular soldiers may worsen the shortage.
  • The focus on recruiting a large number of individuals for a short period may compromise the quality of personnel and will dilute professionalism, military ethos & fighting spirit.
  • Takes 7-8 years to become a fully trained combat-ready soldiers. Agniveers will be risk-averse, will lead to the bulk looking for a second career. It may also hit the basic ethos of ‘Naam, Namak and Nishaan’ (reputation of battalion, fidelity & ensign/colours) for which soldiers fight
  • Lead to militarisation of society with around 35,000 combat-trained youth being rendered jobless every year.

Way forward: 

  • For enhancing intake numbers, increasing the permanent recruitment from 25% to at least 50%.
  • Increase the age limit for entry though the technical route from 21 to 23 years to attract enough technically qualified individuals.
  • The Indian Army suggested increasing the service period for Agniveers from 4 years to 7-8 years.
  • Agniveers should receive a contributory pension plan, a generous gratuity, and compensation for any disabilities incurred during training.
  • Comprehensive training and skill programs should be provided to help Agniveers smoothly transition into civilian life.
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