Understanding the Agnipath Scheme: Objectives, Opposition, and Implications

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Understanding the Agnipath Scheme: Objectives, Opposition, and Implications Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is Agnipath scheme?
  • Why was Agnipath introduced?
  • Why has Agnipath seen such strong opposition?

Why in News?

Agnipath scheme, announced in June 2022, has faced opposition from political parties and Armed Forces veterans. 

The opposition's campaign in states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, and Rajasthan, where the Armed Forces are a major employer, prominently featured opposition to this military recruitment scheme. The BJP's performance in these states suggests that this opposition resonated with voters. 

With the BJP now falling short of a majority in the Lok Sabha, key alliance partners like Janata Dal (United) and Lok Janshakti Party have also called for a review of the scheme.

What is Agnipath scheme?

  • About
    • Agnipath scheme is a central government scheme launched in 2022 for recruitment to the armed forces.
    • It is a recruitment process for individuals below the rank of officer, with the goal of deploying fitter, younger troops on the front lines, many of whom will be on four-year contracts.
      • The armed forces would also have the option to retain some of the best 'Agniveers.'
  • Eligibility 
    • Candidates between the age of 17.5 years to 21 years will be eligible for enrolling in the Agnipath scheme.
    • Girls under the given age limit are open for the agnipath entry, while there is no such reservation for women under this scheme.
    • The recruitment standards will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.
  • Pay & Benefits of Agniveers
    • If they die on duty, their family receives a lump sum of Rs 1 crore (including the Seva Nidhi package), and full pay for the period which the soldier could not serve. 
    • In case of disability, an Agniveer can receive upto Rs 44 lakh as compensation, depending on the percentage of disability suffered which is attributed to, or aggravated by military service.
  • Agnipath is different from regular military service
    • Unlike soldiers in regular service, Agniveers do not draw pensions post-retirement.
    • Only 25% of Agniveers who are absorbed into the forces after four years will receive pension benefits, excluding their initial four years of service. 
    • This scheme aims to reduce the Armed Forces’ permanent force levels and significantly cut the defence pension bill, a longstanding concern for governments.
  • Agniveers recruited so far
    • In the Army, two batches of 40,000 Agniveers have completed training and are under posting. 
    • The third batch of 20,000 began training in November 2023. 
    • In the Navy, three batches of 7,385 Agniveers have completed training. In the IAF, 4,955 Agniveers have completed training.

Why was Agnipath introduced?

  • The Agnipath scheme, beyond reducing the Armed Forces’ wage and pension bill, aims to ensure a youthful profile for the forces
  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh described the scheme as a game changer, intended to make the Armed Forces youthful, high-tech, and ultra-modern. 
  • The average age in the Armed Forces, currently 32 years, will be reduced to 26 years with Agnipath's implementation.
  • The government also argues that Agniveers, after completing their service, will positively contribute to civil society with their skills, discipline, and education. 
  • This is expected to enhance workforce quality, productivity, and overall GDP growth.

Why has Agnipath seen such strong opposition?

  • Critics argue that the Agnipath scheme creates a lesser cadre of soldiers who perform the same tasks as fully commissioned soldiers but with lower pay, fewer benefits, and limited prospects. 
    • Recently, an opposition leader wrote to President, highlighting the discrimination in benefits for the families of fallen Agniveers compared to regular soldiers, calling for urgent attention to this issue.
  • This disparity has caused significant dissatisfaction among those who view military recruitment as a means to economic stability and upward mobility. 

Q.1. Who are Agniveers?

Agniveers are soldiers, airmen, and sailors recruited into the Indian Armed Forces for a four-year period under the Agnipath Scheme. The term "Agniveer" translates to "Fire-Warriors" and is a new military rank.

Q.2. What is Seva Nidhi package?

The Seva Nidhi package is a one-time severance package paid to Agniveers, or young people who serve in the Indian Armed Forces under the Agnipath scheme, after they complete four years of service.

Source: Explained: What is the Agnipath scheme and the opposition to it? | Mondaq | Vikaspedia