The decision of the Modi government to introduce the Agnipath scheme and raise a strong band of Agniveer ought to be seen in the present political perspective in India when the ruling party BJP is openly talking of establishing a Hindu Rashtra. This move of the Modi government would not only drastically change the recruitment procedure for the Indian military, this would also bring about basic changes in the character of the Indian military. Under the scheme the youth between 17-and-a-half years of age to those aged twenty-one, will be recruited as soldiers for a period of four years. Quite significantly they will not be in the service of the military after four years. These youths would become jobless even before reaching the age of thirty.
If the version of the defence minister Raj Nath Singh is to be relied, the Agnipath will form a distinct rank in the armed forces. This move of the government has been opposed by hundreds of the ex military men, including senior cadres. The scheme seeks to replace the existing recruitment model. Recruitment rallies will commence in 90 days and about 46,000 soldiers will be recruited under the scheme this year. The scheme is skewed is clearly manifest in youths in various states, especially in Bihar hitting the streets against it.
Young protesters who had applied for military jobs described the scheme as a case of cheating. In future the defence ministry will not organise recruitment rallies was clearly evident from the assertion of Singh that the Agnipath would now be the lone avenue for the recruitment of ordinary soldiers and that those who had already applied for, or appeared in armed forces recruitment tests, would need to apply afresh.
An insight into the recruitment of Agniveers would unravel that it is the part of the RSS design to have its cadres and members inducted into military services. The Indian military is known to be a non-political force committed to preserve and protect the integrity of the country. Ever since Narendra Modi came to power it has been encouraging the military officials subscribing to the ideas and policies of the RSS. This is the first ever concrete step to politicise and communalise the Indian military. No doubt the BJP leaders eulogise the role and conduct of the military, they are in fact not cosy with the present form of the military institution. ON the plea to inducting Agniveers the RSS will be inducting RSS cadres in the military to ensure that like police. With this they intend to turn military subservient to it.
It is argued that the primary aim of the scheme is to keep the three services younger and agile, while reducing the overall pension burden. This is an illogical argument. Do they want to make the common people believe that military is currently having old and infirm soldiers? It has become redundant. The capitalist world follows the practice of recruiting soldiers in two broad categories — voluntary and conscription-based recruitment. RSS and BJP are following the capitalist practice. They must have an army committed to their policies and ideology.
It is also argued that global security environment has been rapidly changing and armed forces across the world have been adapting to their futuristic requirements, by bringing in fresh ideas and schemes to meet the overall national ambitions and dreams in the long run. Certainly the Agnipath scheme is the new idea. An official statement by the defence ministry said that the scheme will enhance the “youthful profile” of the armed forces and provide a fresh lease of “josh” and “jazba”. This statement no doubt casts aspersion on the military establishment of the country. Does the official really intend to convey that profile of the military is not in conformity to the needs of the country? Quite amusing these Agniveers will be in every village and every corner of the society.
One thing is absolutely clear that this scheme will not solve the problem of unemployment. The Agniveers would be jobless only after rendering their service for four years. They will be faced with an uncertain future. Ex-servicemen argue that the scheme will lead to a loss of institutional memory, especially the regiments in the army. They wonder whether someone who is getting recruited for four years, and only has 25 per cent chance of being permanent, will follow orders and fight with the same spirit as a regular soldier.
Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia, former director general of military operations (DGMO) has tweeted, “Death knell for armed forces. It will lead to Militarization of society. Not a good idea. No one gains.” Lt. Gen. P. R. Shankar, former director general, artillery, has also criticised the scheme: “This soldier will be expected to man Brahmos/Pinaka/Vajra weapon system which he cannot handle and defend his gun position from marauding Pakistanis or Chinese. In essence, the tour of duty proposal expects a superman from a kindergarten. We might be producing an Abhimanyu but he will not get out of the Chakravyuhu.”
The home ministry is on the record; “Agniveers’, soldiers recruited on short-term contract under a special ‘Agnipath’ scheme, will get priority in recruitment to the central armed police forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles.” Apparently this implies that these cadres trained under the military system would be major force in civil policing. Nonetheless Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel has one valid argument, “This means teach the soldiers to use guns and leave them in the society. What do you want to do? If you are enlisting in the army then keep them till the age of 35 years. There is a fault in your intention. It is trying to mislead the youth.”
Employment structure of an economy is the normal instrument that can cause a change in inequality either way, i.e. an increase or a decrease in the inequality. There is no guarantee that these recruits will add to the economy. The fact of the matter is any vision of the future has to be rooted in the current reality and policies. It is imperative to have an understanding of the broad employment picture as it exists today.
Industry and business sources point out at present, under Modi Raj, around 43 crore people are jobless and desperately searching for job for survival. In India today, unemployment levels rise with education, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy. The high unemployment among the college educated youths has caused what the World Economic Forum calls “widespread youth disillusionment,” a threat to India’s economic stability.
The skilled percentage of the work force is very low. In the rural areas, only 10.1% of male and 6.3% of female workers possessed specific marketable skills. The percentages were higher in urban areas, but they were still woefully low in absolute terms – only 19.6% for male workers and 11.2% for female workers. According to CMIE, India’s path to prosperity is in finding employment for nearly 60% of the population. “To reach global employment rate standards India needs to employ an additional 187.5 million people,” it said, adding that given the current employment of the order of 406 million that is a tall order. India’s unemployment rate rose to 7.83% in April this year shows CMIE data. The proposed scheme for inducting Indian youth is another jumla masterminded by our innovative Prime Minister who has timed that the hype over the recruitment will reach its crescendo by the time of 2024 Lok Sabha polls.
Through this scheme Modi tried to create the impression that he was conscious of tackling the problem of joblessness for the youths. But ironically it lacks the dynamism and direction. His decision to recruit 10 lakh Agniveers over the next 18 months, just ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha election, is an act of deceit. In 2014 after becoming prime minister Modi had promised two crore jobs every year. Perilously it proved to be white lie. (IPA Service)