Amid apprehensions that the newly launched Agnipath military recruitment scheme would change composition of several regiments that recruit youths from specific regions as well as castes, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Tuesday said the regimental system will remain untouched under the scheme.
“The concept of regiments, nobody is tinkering with it. If there are regiments, then there will be regiments of artillery, electrical or mechanical engineers or mechanical engineers. They (regiments) will continue… The regimental system has not ended,” said Doval, in an exclusive interview.
Going back to the history of the regimental system in the country, Doval said, “There is confusion among some sections of people about some units of infantry. There are only a few caste-based regiments left, only two or three and this is a colonial legacy. Britishers wanted that nothing should be pan-India. They wanted to divide the people into sections so that they represent particular areas or sects so that there is no national perspective left among the soldiers, otherwise, there would have been a threat to their colonial empire.”
For more details about Indian Army Regimental System check: Indian Army Regiments Motto And War Cry [Full List]
The Union Cabinet on June 14 approved the short-term recruitment scheme ‘Agnipath’ for Indian youth who will serve for four years in the three services and those selected under this scheme will be known as ‘Agniveers’.
Protests erupted in states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand and Assam.
Amid protests, the Army, Navy and the Air Force on Sunday came out with a broad schedule for recruitment of soldiers under the Agnipath scheme while asserting that it is being implemented to bring down the age profile of the armed forces.
Addressing a Tri-Service press conference on Sunday, Lt General Anil Puri informed that ‘Agnipath’ is a long pending reform which was even recommended by the Kargil Review Committee. He further mentioned that the recruitment of soldiers under the scheme will increase to over 1.25 lakh in the next 4-5 years.
All three previous heads of Defence forces along with the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) worked for two years on the scheme. They analyzed meticulous details of the scheme, the top military officer said.
Allaying the fears of the aspirants regarding the Agnipath scheme, Doval said that the youth have a fear of the unknown, adding that “misunderstandings are created– may be deliberately or lack of understanding.”
“Reforms are needed for a better future. We are a young nation with the oldest army. When PM Modi came to power in 2014, one of his prime priorities was how to make India secure and strong. That required many avenues, many steps – multitude of them,” Ajit Doval added.
By December first week, the Indian Army is scheduled to get the first batch of 25,000 ‘Agniveers’ and the second batch would be inducted around February next year making it 40,000, Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa said while addressing the Tri-service presser.
Ruling out rollback of Agnipath scheme for recruitment in armed forces, National Security Advisor of India Ajit Doval said that the government’s move was “not a knee-jerk reaction that has come overnight” but has been debated and discussed for over decades.
“There is no question of any rollback (of the Agnipath scheme). Let me tell you one thing. This is not a knee-jerk reaction that has come overnight. This has been debated and discussed for over decades,” he added.
Training, discipline during four years of service and an Army career will result in Agniveers having high stature in the society, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval said on Tuesday and noted that government and several ministries have made announcements for the absorption of youth who will be discharged after service in the Agnipath recruitment scheme for defence forces.
In an exclusive with ANI, Doval said Agniveers will have age as an asset, they have their future secured and do not need to worry about anything.
He said there will be plethora of opportunities for Agniveers in a rapidly growing economy, including in higher education.
“We must have a fit, agile, young and well trained Army. Those Aginiveers who will be regularised will go through more training and become experienced over time. So Indian Army at any point of time will have large number of people who though recruited as Agniveers but are specially selected for their suitability, fitness, agility motivation and aptitude,” he said.
Doval said Agniveers will have discipline, team-work capability, skills, confidence, an all-India perspective and will be “much more equipped for society”.
“Every recruit is fresh in Armed Forces. The biggest misunderstanding has been created deliberately. This maybe because of lack of full understanding. Say, an angiveer of 22-23 years old and has done a four-year service and now he is in the market. Compare him with any other 21-122 years old youth who is not an agniveer. This person is disciplined and has the capability to work as a team. He learned skills. He developed confidence and an all-India perspective. He is trainable. So he is much more equipped for society,” Doval said.
He noted that no avenue is closed or debarred from Agniveers and they will have second career.
“Plus, Agniveers will have around Rs 11 lakh cash, they can join any course of their choice. They can go to University. They can acquire technical skills. So they will have a second career. Earlier people talk about one life and two careers. But now its one life and three careers,” he said.
“After four years of service, the training, discipline, background and the Army career, they (Agniveers) will have high stature in the society. On top of it there are several announcements by the government and several ministries for the absorption of Agniveers,” he added.
He said India’s economy is expanding rapidly and provide several opportunities after five years in the private sector.
“The first Agiveer will retire after 5 years from today when India’s economy will be USD 5 trillion. Private sectors will grow at a new pace. Defence sector is also growing at rapid pace. The asset of the Agniveers will be their age. They have their future secured. They do not need to worry about anything,” he added.
The “transformative” Agnipath scheme, announced by Union Minister Rajanath Singh on June 14, in the presence of the three service chiefs provides for the recruitment of into the Armed services of youths between the age bracket of 17-and-a-half-years to 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years. The Centre later extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022.
The Union Cabinet had also approved Agnipath scheme on June 14 and the youth selected under this scheme will be known as Agniveers.
The government had announced that 46,000 Agniveers to be recruited this year. It had said that armed Forces will have “a younger, fitter, diverse profile” to face future challenges.
The Indian Army issued its first notification on Monday for recruitment under Agnipath scheme.
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