Note: Article covers Agnipath scheme by the Government of India & the crisis Agnipath scheme has initiated in India.
What is Agnipath Scheme?
On 14th June, 2022, the government of India announced the radical and far-reaching ‘Agnipath’ scheme. This scheme was authorized by the PM Modi-led cabinet committee on security. This scheme entails a recruitment process for individuals below the rank of officer, around 46000 soldiers will be recruited annually and they will leave the service in just four years. Of the total annual recruits, only 25% will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
Under the Agnipath scheme, aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 23 years will be eligible to apply. This would help bring down the average age of the armed forces, the average age would drop from 32 to 26 in the army. The recruitment standards will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies. The 1st year salary package will be of 4.76 lakh inr. with upgradation of up to 6.92 lakh inr. in 4th year. At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount. The first Agnipath entry rally recruitment will start from Sept – Oct 2022.
All three services (army, navy, air force) will be enrolled through a centralized online system, with specific rallies and campus interviews conducted by recognized technical colleges such as Industrial Training Institutes etc. Enrollment will be on a ‘All India All Class’ basis, with eligible ages ranging from 17.5 to 23 years old. The educational requirement for becoming a General Duty (GD) soldier is Class 10.
Drawbacks & Concerns over Agnipath scheme
While the Indian government emphasizes the advantages of this programme, many concerns remain unaddressed.
- According to many Indians, actually this scheme should be presented as deploying ill-experienced younger troops on the front lines, whom will be on four-year contracts.
- There were so many youngsters already in India who had already cleared the recruitment process and they were waiting for final call letter to join the army but since last 2 years the BJP Government in India stopped the recruitment due to covid. The questions remained unanswered that what will happen to the recruitments pending?
- Many Indian’s have expressed their concerns over the training period of Agniveers which is 6 months, many reportedly said that a soldier is fully trained in a time period of 7-8 years. How can you train an Agniveer in 6 months?
- Many Indians think that an agniveer won’t be able to serve the nation professionally as he already knows he is only in the service for 4 years neither he’ll be capable enough to deliver anything with just 6 months of training.
- The biggest drawback of this scheme is that after four years, only 25 per cent of the Agniveers batch will be recruited back into their respective services, for an extended period of 15 years, remaining 75% Agniveers will be left with a small amount of money without pension and without any healthcare benefits and the only thing they will be able to do after 4 years of service will be to apply in a bank for security guard or become a bodyguard of a Bollywood actor.
- This scheme is also being criticized as it does not provide recruits with permanent jobs or the promised pensions and healthcare benefits even after they retire. For those who are re-selected, the initial four-year period will not be considered for retirement benefits.
- There is also no separate Quota for women in this scheme.
- Indian Lieutenant General Vinod Bhatia (retired) tweeted that [“the Agnipath scheme, also known as the Tour of Duty (ToD) scheme, will spell the end of the armed forces”. ToD was not tested, there was no pilot project, and it was simply implemented.” Will also lead to the militarization of society, with almost 40,000 (75%) youth returning year after year, rejected and dejected, semi-trained in arms ex-Agnives. This is not a good idea. “No one benefits, “].
- Many Indians have concerns that if through this scheme a youngster becomes agniveer and after 4 years he will have no College and University degree in any field than they could become mercenaries and that will not be good for India’s interest.
- Many Indians have said that Indian Military is not happy with this scheme and this scheme is forced onto Indian Military by BJP Government as they are unable to provide jobs to the Indians and the joblessness in India has increased over time due to BJP Government’s poor performance.
Protests against the Agnipath Scheme in India
On 14 June 2022, soon after the announcement of the scheme, violent protests erupted in several states in India where the army aspirants angry with the new scheme called for its rollback and damaged public property including buses and trains.
“Almost 12 trains have been burnt in India, movement of 300 trains were affected, 214 trains have been cancelled, 11 trains diverted, 90 short of their destination and a railway station looted and many automobiles and bikes have been burnt on road.”
This scheme evoked mixed reactions from army veterans mostly negative. Congress leader Kanhaiya Kumar called the new military recruitment scheme, “a scam”.
Protesters are upset with the Agnipath scheme because the new age cap will prevent many people from attending recruitment rallies. Previously, young men between the ages of 16.5 and 21 were chosen for a minimum of 15 years. They would receive a pension upon retirement. The new system entirely replaces the previous one. They can now be recruited between the ages of 17 and 23. 75% recruits will be limited to four years of service. The Bihar government in India suspended internet access in 12 districts till June 19. There have also been reports of internet outages in Palwal, Haryana, and the Ballabhgarh region of the neighboring Faridabad district.
On 15 June 2022, the news of the protest was first reported from the state of Bihar where National highways and railway tracks were blocked by the protesters.
On 16 June 2022, violence was reported in Bihar. Army aspirants burnt down trains and buses. Later the protests along with violent incidents were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and other states. More than 200 trains were affected by the protests, 35 trains have been cancelled and 13 trains were terminated short of their destination.
On 17 June, protesters attacked the house of the Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Renu Devi. The mobs of young protesters went on a rampage and set fire to trains and other property after which Bihar government ordered internet shutdowns in 18 districts. 12 trains were set on fire, and the movement of 300 trains were affected. 214 trains were cancelled, 11 trains were diverted and 90 were terminated short of their destination. In the BJP-ruled Haryana massive protest occurred in which the angry protesters threw stones at vehicles in Ballabhgarh, squatted on railway tracks to stop train movement in Jind and burnt tires in Rohtak. In Uttar Pradesh hundreds of angry young protestors carried bamboo sticks and stones and stormed railway premises in several cities, blocked highways and targeted private vehicles.
On 18 June, protesters in Bihar called a strike against the scheme. Train services were stopped in Bihar till 8 pm, on 18 June. More than 350 trains were cancelled across India as the violence continued in several states.
Student organization like Students’ Federation of India (SFI) took massive rallies and protests in several parts of country against the alleged anti youth scheme. There were protests in Delhi, UP, Haryana, Rajasthan and other parts of the country.
On 19 June, Virendra Kumar, Chief Public relations officer, East Central Railway, told media that estimates of the damage to property are still being made, but approximately upwards of 700 crore inr. property has been damaged. He also said that five trains, 60 coaches and 11 engines have been burnt, railway is preparing a full report for the damage caused to property.
BJP Government atrocities on Indian Citizens:
A 19-year-old protestor was brutally shot dead in Telangana. Internet was shut down in 12 districts of Bihar. More than 325 people were arrested in Bihar and 250 in Uttar Pradesh.
In Karnataka, Police lathi-charged Agnipath protesters in Karnataka’s Dharwad. Anti-‘Agnipath’ protests were also reported from other parts of Karnataka, such as Gokak and Belgaum districts. Patna District magistrate said 23 FIRs were registered and 147 arrests were made. He alleged the involvement of 3 coaching centres in the protests. Ludhiana Police termed the protests “planned conspiracy” as the Ludhiana Railway station was vandalised.
The government ordered all internet providers to stop users from exchanging posts or visual material through a list of social networking websites.
Bharat Bandh (All India Strike)
On 20 June, a country wide strike named Bharat Bandh was called by the protesting organizations demanding a roll back of the scheme. More than 500 trains were cancelled due to the strike. The Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway saw heavy traffic jams following a call for Bharat Bandh against the recruitment scheme.
In Faridabad and Noida, prohibitory orders had been imposed that prohibit the assembly of four or more persons. Massive jams were seen on the expressways as Delhi Police checked vehicles.
In Jharkhand, all schools were closed and heavy security was deployment in state on calls for a bandh. In Karnataka, holiday was announced for 75 educational institutions on the wake Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to the state. Some attributed it to security concerns due to the ongoing protests and calls for a bandh. Section 144 was imposed in some parts of the state of Rajasthan, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
In Indian Illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, Aam Adami Party leader Mehraj Malik put under house arrest. Government of Bihar suspended Internet in 20 districts amid protests. Meanwhile, it enhanced the securities of BJP offices in 11 districts. The Bihar Police deployed Sashastra Seema Bal personnel at the offices of BJP to prevent any untoward incidents.
Author: Ali Hassan