Questioning various provisions of the Centre’s ‘Agnipath’ scheme that envisages recruitment of soldiers on a short-term contractual basis, BJP MP Varun Gandhi Thursday said it will give rise to more disaffection among the youth and asked the government to make its stand clear.
In a letter to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Gandhi said the young population has shared their questions and doubts with him about the radical changes in the soldiers’ recruitment process which also proposes that the 75 per cent of the recruits under the scheme will retire after four years of service without pension.
As 75 per cent of soldiers will become “unemployed” after four years and their total numbers will keep rising every year, it will give a rise to more disaffection among the youth, Gandhi said.
He asked what will be the prospects for these retired soldiers when the corporate sector does not show much interest in hiring even the regular military personnel who retire after 15 years.
Four years of service will disrupt their education, and they will also face difficulties in getting another job or more education as they will be older to others with similar qualification, he said, adding they will face financial hardship as well.
“These soldiers with only six-month basic training may be a cause of disruption to the existing regimental formations,” the Lok Sabha MP said.
As only 25 per cent of the ‘Agniveers’ will continue after four years, the scheme will result in a waste of training cost and will prove to be an unnecessary burden on the defence budget, he has claimed in his letter to Singh.
“The government should keep the interests of unemployed youth paramount and bring out various policy aspects of this initiative,” he said.
The government on Tuesday unveiled a “transformative” scheme –“Agnipath”– for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy and the Air Force largely on a four-year short-term contractual basis. Officials said this will bring in fitter and younger troops to deal with future security challenges facing the nation.
Sharing details during the launch, Singh had said, “Under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, Indian youth will be provided an opportunity to serve in the armed forces as ‘Agniveer’. This scheme has been brought to strengthen the security of the country. It is a transformative scheme.”
Under the scheme, youth between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 years will be inducted into the three services. After completion of the four-year tenure, the scheme provides for retaining 25 per cent of the recruits for regular service.
Meanwhile, government sources said on Thursday, amid widespread protests against the new model, that no change is being done to the Army’s regimental system under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme and the numbers of personnel to be recruited in the first year of its roll out would only make up three per cent of the armed forces.
The scheme is aimed at increasing opportunities for youths to serve in the armed forces and the recruitment of the personnel under it will be around triple of the current enrolment in the armed forces, they said without specifying the duration of comparison.
Several states have witnessed protests against the new scheme. A number of opposition political parties and military experts have also slammed the scheme saying it will adversely impact the functioning of the armed forces.
There were apprehensions 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.
“No change is being done to the regimental system. In fact, it will be further accentuated because the best of ‘Agniveers’ will be selected, further boosting cohesiveness of the units,” said a source.