Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Sunday met the three service chiefs amid escalating protests against the ‘Agnipath’ military recruitment scheme in several parts of the country. It was Singh’s second meeting with the chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force for the second straight day on the issue.
There was no official comment on the meeting.It is learnt that the focus of the deliberations was on pacifying the protesters. As the protests intensified in various parts of the country, the defence minister on Saturday approved a proposal to reserve 10 per cent of the jobs in various organisations under the ministry for recruits under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme if they meet the requisite eligibility criteria.
The Home Ministry also announced 10 per cent reservations for ‘Agniveers’ in Central Armed Police Forces and Assam Rifles following completion of their four-year tenure under the new recruitment scheme.
The Indian Air Force on Sunday came out with details of the new scheme. The Indian Navy and the Army are expected to issue similar details soon. The three services are planning to deploy the first batches of recruits under the new scheme both in operational and non-operational roles by June next year, senior military officials said.
In an attempt to pacify the protesters, the government on Thursday night increased the upper age limit for recruitment under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme to 23 years from 21 for the year 2022. Unveiling the scheme on Tuesday, the government said youths between the ages of 17 and-a-half and 21 years would be inducted for a four-year tenure while 25 per cent of them will be subsequently inducted for regular service.
The youths to be recruited under the new scheme would be called ‘Agniveer’. A major objective of the scheme is to bring down the average age of military personnel and cut ballooning salary and pension bills. The announcement of the new scheme came in the backdrop of recruitments into the military remaining stalled over the coronavirus pandemic for over two years.
The Army recruits 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers annually. However, the recruitment could not take place for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.