What’s in the news?
- The Opposition parties have demanded a discussion on the Agnipath military recruitment scheme during the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
- Several Opposition parties, including TMC, BJD, Shiv Sena, TDP, Akali Dal, CPI(M),CPI, RSP and JMM, skipped the meeting. TMC said that such pre-session meetings are a sham because the agreement they reach in the meeting is not implemented in the House.
About the Scheme
- The Centre has announced the Agnipath scheme for recruitment of soldiers in the three branches of the armed forces, on a short-term basis.
- Under the scheme, youth (both men and women) between 17.5 to 21 years of age will be enrolled as soldiers for four years.
- These recruits, who will be known as ‘Agniveers’, will form a distinct rank bearing a distinct insignia in the respective forces.
What are the features of the new scheme?
- Aimed at reducing salaries and pensions to divert resources for military modernisation, the idea of a short-term recruitment model or ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD) was first mooted around two years back for the selection of officers and jawans, for a limited number of vacancies.
- As part of the Agnipath scheme, selected candidates will be enrolled under the respective Service Acts for four years.
- The required educational qualification will be Class 10-12, depending on the service and assigned role.
- Agniveers will contribute 30% of their salaries to a package called ‘Seva Nidhi’, and this amount will be matched by the government. This fund will accrue interest, and at the end of the four years, each soldier will get ₹11.71 lakh as a lump sum tax-free amount.
- The Agniveers will also be provided non-contributory life insurance cover of ₹48 lakh during their service in the armed forces.
- There will, however, be no pension or gratuity benefits for these recruits.
- In addition, Agniveers will get skill certificates, awards of credits so that they can study further, and a financial package to support future endeavours after their short-term military service.
- After four years of service are completed, Agniveers will be eligible to apply for permanent enrolment in the armed forces. Up to 25% of them will be selected on an objective basis and enrolled as regular cadre.
- The move is expected to decrease the average age profile of armed forces personnel from the current 32 years to 24-26 years over a period of time.
- It is also expected to reduce the defence pension bill. Since 2020, the government has paid over Rs. 3.3 lakh crore in defence pension.
- Having a young military will make it easier to train them for emerging technology.
- Apart from career options in the army, trainees will find work in a variety of industries thanks to the skills and experience gained during their four-year service. After their four-year stay, the national government is expected to give precedence to Agniveers in regular employment.
- Six months of intensive training may not be sufficient to trust them with the same kind of missions as present forces.
- Some cited that there is no job security in the scheme and Agniveers will not be eligible for pension benefits.