- Mention the context of the protest.
- Point out the measures you suggest that may improve the scheme.
The Agnipath scheme has been forced into ‘Agnipariksha’ for its out of the box nature of proposals, raising many questions about negatively impacting the ethos of the armed forces.
Backgrounder: It is important to understand why the current protests against the Agnipath model has gained steam. The appeal to the armed forces as a profession lies in the fact that armed forces is open to all Indians purely on a merit-based entry. Joining the service is seen as honorable & patriotic. Membership of the armed forces is an identity to escape the anonymity of the rural socio-economic strata. Lastly, it has a lifetime social security in terms of pension & medical cover. Therefore, the current demonstration is largely fuelled by concerns that these aspirations of the youth may not be fulfilled.
Measures ought to be taken: Against this backdrop, it is challenging to set right the narrative that the recruitment policy is against the interests of the youth, despite few recent amendments.
- Changing the method of recruitment to a national-level examination instead of focusing on regional recruitment can make it more trustworthy & appealing.
- the qualifying candidates then need to be subjected to intelligence and aptitude test to ensure merit, along with allocations for physical fitness.
- There are apprehensions that biases may set in identifying soldiers to be retained after 4 years. This can be reversed by increasing the retention to 33-50% and extending the initial term to 5 years. Furthermore, the retained soldiers need to be on an all-India merit list considering their achievements & progress.
- Given the interest in post-military employment of soldiers, lateral entry in other services has to be streamlined and Agniveers can be enrolled in the NPS.
- It needs to be highlighted that government is looking for a talent pool that is not just qualified, but capable of being absorbed into the needs of a futuristic army – a fact that Agnipath is not a short-term contract needs to be emphasized.
The scheme provides an opportunity for the armed forces to transition to the next generation of warfare with a manpower that can embrace technological challenges. The government should launch public outreach programs showcasing the advantages. Instances of youth preventing mob rampages need to be put up that goes with the ethos of soldiering, which is that a true soldier will give his life than destroy what his country stands for.