The Indian Army has given the go-ahead to Agnipath military defense arrangement and registrations for Agniveer will start next month. Indian government unveiled the Agnipath scheme on 16 June to recruit young men and women between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 into the army for only 4 years. However, only 25% of them will be retained in the army while other trained soldiers will be returned to society. The government announced that this “reform” would cut military expenditure and enhance the “youthful profile” of the Indian army.
A much shorter military tenure than the previous one has caused protests across the country. Protestors, mostly young men, torched several trains and blocked key highways to demand an end to this scheme. India suspended recruitment for the army since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Now the new scheme of fixed-term has infuriated millions of contenders who feared they would be too old to apply for the military. Due to the protests, the government has increased the age limit up to 23.
Agnipath Scheme is Disastrous for Military Structure
The Agnipath scheme has received a lot of criticism from potential candidates and military officials. Ambitious recruits said that it does very little in terms of providing employment opportunities. They questioned what they would do after 4 years, especially at the time of the severe job crisis in India. According to reports, the unemployment rate in India reached nearly 7.8% in April 2022. Moreover, the unemployment rate among young people aged 15 – 29 has been around 20% for a long time.
Military experts raised concerns over the future of youth, who would be left with fewer job opportunities. This also highlighted that 4 years was not enough time for adjusting the recruits to military discipline and they would not learn anything.
Idea of Having Gun-Trained People Around
Political scientists and think tanks have also criticized the Agnipath scheme as a dangerous program. They have been debating the implications of giving weapons training to young unemployed people who would be desperately looking for a job in a society already marred by violence. India has been suffering from severe majoritarian violence against minority religions especially Muslims since Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came to power in 2014.
As the institutions and government, both have failed to protect the secular harmony, Hindutva extremist groups have a wide ground to play. A few months ago, one extremist group held a massive rally to call for the genocide of Muslims. The short-term soldiers discharged from the Indian army could be vital prospects for such groups who could use them in their ideological goals.
Eligibility for Joining Army Under this Scheme
In response to violent protests over the Agnipath scheme, the Indian Army said that recruits would have to pledge that they did not engage in any protest before applying for the program. Top military officers recently told the media that there is “no space for indiscipline” in the armed forces. All candidates will go through police verification before becoming Agniveers. If the police find any FIR against the candidates, they will be rejected.