The geo-strategic location of India with such hostile neighbours necessitates that India should have an army which is modern, state-of-the-art and ready to fight and protect the borders of the country. We lost the 1962 war with China primarily because of ill-preparedness and lack of the state of the art defence equipment.
The defence of any country depends upon the professionalism, competitiveness and efficiency of its soldiers. Territorial integrity and defence of any country depends more upon the morale and fitness of soldiers than on anything. If I tell you that 60% of the budget of the Indian army goes to salary and pension and only 40% is left for its capital and modernisation, it will make you think that we are repeating the blunders of 1962 without learning any lessons from it.
The Modi Government recently announced the historical structural-reforms in the field of recruitment of army wherein Personnel recruited under the Agnipath scheme are termed as Agniveers. Of the 45,000 to 50,000 recruited annually, 25 % will be absorbed in the army to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
Under Agnipath scheme, non-officer cadre army personnel would be recruited on a short-term contractual basis. Out of the total recruited, 75% leaving the service will be given a lump sum amount of 11.71L (corpus built by 50pc contribution by govt., 50 pc by personnel and interest earned). Recently, India has witnessed protest for the sake of protest on any ‘change’ which the Modi government is trying to bring for short-term as well as long term benefit of India. There is no logic or sanity in such protests. Burning trains, buses, public properties and other assets smack of the anti-national elements fuelling the protests and jeopardising the much sought after reforms. They are playing in the hands of anti-India forces undermining national security. Can we think of a probable situation in which any of such protestors joining the Indian army where discipline and protecting the national assets are prioritised over even personal-life?
The Agnipath system will have a new kind of recruitment compared to ongoing age-long procedures. There is a consensus among all the defence experts that India’s defence needs an overhaul structural reform. It is fact that the average age-limit of the Indian army is higher than the global standards. This new scheme will bring about desired changes.
On an average the career settlement of a youth happens at the age of 29-30. Agniveer scheme will give you job cum skills starting at an age of 17. This will significantly reduce the average age of Indian soldiers from 32 to 24–26 years which definitely will manifest in the health of the Indian defence system. The Agniveers will get Rs 30,000-45,000 per month as salary. At the age of 17, you are getting such a salary with other collateral benefits. They will get a preference in government jobs as announced by many states. Also there will be 10 % reservation of posts in the Home and Defence ministries forAgni veers.
This will considerably reduce the defence pension bill which eats up a lion’s share of the defence budget. The National Institute of Open Schooling has announced that it will provide special courses for the Agniveers associated with the project to get class 10th and 12th pass certificates. This certificate can be used for entering higher education across the country.
It will bring about professionalism and competitiveness as the 25% chosen will be the best lot in terms of skill, agility and fitness. The remaining 75% will be a pool of trained, skilled and equipped men-power who are ready to face the world with all the required skills and knowledge. In the next 8 years, 140,000 people will be available who are well trained for defence and can be utilized for the country in an emergency situation. It will create a Pan-India regiment having an all India-complexion.
The Army is not an employment generating avenue. We join the army primarily to serve the country and protect the country and if need be make sacrifices for the country. When someone protests just for protesting,it is the worst kind of disservice to the country.
(The writer is National General Secretary of BJP)