The new transformational recruitment policy announced by the government at the end of Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has now opened doors for women to be inducted in the Indian Armed Forces. The process of recruitment will start 90 days from the day of the announcement and by 2023 almost 46,000 young men/women will be recruited including from specific castes.
With the focus on making the Indian Armed Forces lean and more tech-savvy the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in an official statement stated that in the age group of 17.5 – 21 ‘Agniveers’ will be forming a distinct rank in the Armed Forces and will have a separate insignia. These Agniveers will be inducted in the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force.
While announcing the new scheme, defence minister Rajnath Singh said that after their exit from the service at the end of four years, they will get job opportunities in not only several ministries, but in public sector undertakings too.
He also dismissed that this scheme was being adopted to bring down the pension bill. The huge pensions bill has been a matter of concern for the governments and under this scheme it will help make the permanent force level of 13 lakh armed forces of India much leaner.
Scientific Model to be adopted
On completion of 4 years of duty, there will be around 25 percent of the recruits who will be able to opt for full tenure which will be decided on the basis of a scientific model and data which will be centrally maintained. These 25 percent recruits will be eligible for all benefits that the existing troops enjoy.
Lt Gen Anil Puri, Additional Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), in his opening statement said “The present average age of troops is 32 years. And in a few years this will be brought down to 26 years.”
Adding, “The process is open to women and will be transparent. There will be tech savvy youthful forces and future ready.”
Under the ‘Angipath scheme’ they will start with a monthly salary of Rs 30,000 per month in the first year and by the time four years is over they will get a monthly income of Rs 40,000. And yes, they will receive hardship and risk allowance which will be at par with regular soldiers depending on where they are posted.
The recruit’s salary will be free from income tax, and he will not be entitled to gratuity and pension. At the end of the tenure will receive a contributory severance package called the one time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package of Rs 11.76 lakh with interest. They will also get disability and death benefits and also an insurance cover of Rs one crore to family in case of death.
In his address Army Chief General Manoj Pande said that these Agniveers will be deployed at all those places where Indian army soldiers are deployed and there will be no compromise in operational capability.
What is the big change?
It will be an all India merit-based selection. This means that the recruiting system which was being followed since the British era is being replaced which was based on specific caste based regiments.
And especially for the Indian Army this new recruitment scheme is very significant as there is a regiment system based on geographical locations and caste basis. And now, with time this will be eliminated and anybody from any region, class, caste or religious background can become part of the existing regiments.
According to Gen Puri, “Regiments in the future will have inductees from across India and from all classes.”
Earlier, the recruitment system, almost 200 years old, was based on geographical locations and the same gene-pool. For the time being Rajput Regiment, Jat Regiment, Maratha Regiment and Sikh regiment, would continue to draw from these communities. The specific class regiments are going to evolve from the present class based character into “ All India, All Class structure.” This means class specific regiments like Jats, Marathas, Rajputs and Sikhs will be affected by this new process of recruitment as youth from other classes will be inducted.
Responding to media queries on this issue, the Army Chief Gen Pande said 75 percent of Units in the Army are anyway ‘’All India, All Class’’ and limited class composition.
Adding, “The class and regimental system are different concepts. Now, the recruitment base will widen and will provide equal opportunity to all. There will be no compromise on the ethos of Naam Namak Nishaan.”
He said that this new Agnipath Scheme was discussed with all the stake-holders and it complements the ongoing modernization.
In his address Indian Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said that the youth leaving at the end of four years after completing their duty will be job ready.
According to the Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said, “The Agniveers will be posted on frontline submarines and warships.”