Protests Over ‘Agnipath’, The Army in Opposition Too

The ‘Agnipath’ project will be of no use at all, or the way will be opened for the laymen to enter the army on the contrary – the former and serving army officials are divided on this. According to some of the serving officials, 25 per cent of the Agniveers who will join the ‘Agnipath’ scheme will have regular access to the army. Those who can start their life anew after four years of service in the army. Opposition groups who are vocal against this decision commented, even if it saves the treasury money, many veterans army officials fear that the decision could turn the Indian Army into a “guard supplying agency”. According to them, the decision could call into question the secular and apolitical nature of the military in the coming days.

Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the Agnipath project Tuesday. Under the scheme, young people aged 17-21 will be able to join the Army on a contract basis for four years. They will be called ‘Agniveers’. At the end of the fourth year, a maximum of 25% of Agniveers will be included in the army on the basis of vacancies and qualifications. Opposing the project of the government, job seekers blocked the railway line at various places including Gaya, Patna and Muzaffarpur in Bihar yesterday. According to them, the Indian Army is the main source of employment for people in remote areas of the country. Due to their job security, young people from poor and lower middle class families choose to join the army.

Protesters have raised the question of who will give them a new job if they have to retire within 4 years of getting a job in the army after a long preparation. Protesters have raised questions about how much of that demand will be met, despite a number of organizations, including the Interior Ministry, issuing a statement yesterday demanding that Agniveers be given priority in jobs. 

Words from retired officers

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Several ex-servicemen have called the government’s decision ‘reckless’. According to most of them, the government needed to run a pilot project to see the pros and cons of the project before implementing it. Former Army Major General B S Dhanoa said, “The pilot project should have been looked at for at least 4-5 years before this project was started to see what kind of problems are the commanding officers having to work with those jawans on the ground of reality. The project should have been launched on the basis of necessary changes.”

His suggestion was, “When it is decided to launch the project, the retirees should be given seven years of retirement instead of four. And at least 30 per cent of the Agniveers in each batch should be recruited into the main army.” Major General G. D. Bakshi has also been vocal in his criticism of the government’s decision. In his words, “such an appointment in the army would make the Indian army full of part-time jawans like China which is not desirable at all.”