Can Agnipath Ignite Patriotism? What led to these protests and why are people unhappy?

In the last couple of days, the country witnessed protests and demonstrations against the recently announced Agnipath recruitment scheme by groups of students and unemployed youth across different states.

Can Agnipath Ignite Patriotism? What led to these protests and why are people unhappy?

From Assam to Bihar to Telangana, a total of more than 10 states had to move its police machinery to control the agitated and disappointed protesters. A number of trains also had to be cancelled due to the sudden eruption of protests. But what led to these protests and why are people unhappy with this scheme? Let us try to understand.

What is the Agnipath Scheme?

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the Agnipath Scheme, which sought to bring transformation in the armed forces and strengthen it. This recruitment scheme is said to be the single largest human resource transformation in the history of Indian armed forces. Under this scheme young Indians between the age of 17.5 to 23 years will be provided with the opportunity to serve in the armed forces.

The recruiters under this scheme termed as ‘Agniveers’ will be given a good salary of around 4 lakhs in the initial years, which will later increase to around 6 lakhs in the final year. Moreover, an exit retirement package or ‘Seva Nidhi’ of around 11-12 lakhs will be granted, along with all the standard government allowances and benefits during service tenure.

But the contested and disapproved part of the scheme due to which the protests erupted and many political leaders, ex-servicemen have voiced their concerns is the 4-year service duration and later the demobilization of 75% of the total recruitment i.e., only 25% would be retained for a full term of another 15 years. The Seva Nidhi package will be given to the demobilized Agniveers, along with skill certificates and bank loans for their future careers.

Good for Government?

The government said that the scheme with a reduced tenure is important because of the rising salary and pension bills of the government. This too is a fact that India is a country which spends almost 25% of its defence budget on giving out pensions and comparatively this number is quite high as other countries such as the U.S. or the U.K. spends quite less on pensions from its defence budget.

Another problem which the government pointed out is the problem with increasing number of permanent army men leading to increased revenue expenditure of the government, due to which the capital expenditure reduces and the defence sector lacks in modernization. For example, in the 2020-21 defence budget, the government managed to allocate only $7 billion as capital expenditure i.e., to buy machinery and armaments, which is quite less.

Hence, the government wants to shed some of the salary and pension burden and focus on building a more modernized and technically equipped army rather than an army with a burden of man power but no technological advancement to combat.

Why Government is Facing the Flak?

Many ex-servicemen have pointed out some major flaws in the Agnipath scheme which could gradually lead to depletion in the efficiency of the armed forces. One such flaw is the shortened service tenure of only 4 years.

Retired officers said that it takes a minimum of 7-8 years for a person to be trained as an efficient and combat ready soldier. So, they questioned the government on the training of the recruited people and how will they serve the armed forces if their training is compromised. And this concern becomes more critical when the Defence Minister claims that Agniveers will be 50% of the total strength of Indian Army

Another problem with the scheme is that after 4 years only 25% of the recruited personnel will be retained and the remaining will again become unemployed and will have to search for some other employment opportunity. This will lead to lack of motivation among the newly recruited servicemen who would only think of passing the 4 years and then later moving on with something else.

On a concluding note, we must be aware of the fact that an army personnel goes through a lot of hardcore training and fights against insurmountable odds for the nation, but the salary one gets cannot match the hard work and the risk factor that comes with the job.

Hence, it is always said that the armed forces are not motivated by their salaries but by their service to the nation and this motivation makes them do the impossible. Patriotism is the fuel which ignites the morale of the soldier fighting for his/her nation.

So, the question remains, will this scheme of Agnipath, which will recruit personnel like contractual workers, be able to deliver this kind of motivation to serve the country?

Pratik Deka,
Content Writer,

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