Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday described the Agnipath scheme as a “transformative policy” that will be a “game changer” in strengthening the military and making it ready for future challenges, while stressing that Agniveers recruited under the new model will make the armed forces “more youthful and tech-savvy.”
In his address via video conferencing, the PM touched upon the new fronts of contactless warfare and challenges of cyber warfare, and said technologically-advanced soldiers would play a key role in the armed forces.
The Agnipath model for short-term induction of soldiers into the three services is a major departure from the military’s decades-old recruitment system that was discontinued when the government announced the new scheme in June 2022. It seeks to recruit soldiers for only four years, with a provision to retain 25% of them in regular service.
Agniveers recruited under the new model began their training in early January. Modi congratulated them on being the pioneers of the path-breaking scheme.
The PM said ‘New India’ was filled with renewed vigour, and efforts were underway to modernise the armed forces as well as making them ‘Aatmanirbhar’ (self-reliant). He also spoke about how the scheme would further empower women, and said that he looked forward to seeing women Agniveers in all three forces.
India had on June 14, 2022, announced the Agnipath scheme replacing the legacy system to lower the age profile of the armed forces, ensure a fitter military and create a technically skilled war fighting force capable of meeting future challenges. It sparked widespread protests and forced a concerted outreach by the government to scotch apprehensions about the scheme.
Over 5.4 million candidates registered for the 46,000 jobs in the three services in the first phase (40,000 in the army and 3,000 each in the Indian Air Force and navy), according to defence ministry data.
The PM said that getting posted in the country’s different regions will give Agniveers an opportunity to get diverse experiences and that they should try to learn different languages and also learn about different cultures and ways of living. He said teamwork and honing of leadership skills will add a new dimension to their personality.
In his address, defence minister Rajnath Singh said that several ministries, including the defence ministry, are coming forward for the welfare of Agniveers.
“Reservation is being ensured for Agniveers on a number of posts in various departments of Ministry of Defence, Central Armed Police Forces and Ministry of Railways. Arrangements are being made jointly by MoD & Ministry of Education to ensure proper education to the Agniveers. In collaboration with Ministry of Finance, arrangements are being made to provide loans at reasonable rates to Agniveers, who wish to start self-employment or any business after service,” Singh added.