Army candidates’ Agnipath can be condoned


Rama Krishna Sangem

The country-wide violent protests by youth – army candidates – against the proposed Agnipath scheme launched by the Centre convey two things. First the seriousness of  current unemployment in India. Second is the poor financial condition of Government of India, which is not in a position to meet the ever growing pension bill of the armed forces – around Rs 1.20 lakh crore, per year. 

Now we have around 32 lakh retired armed personnel and every year, around 55,000 added. The introduction of #OROP (one rank, one pension) scheme since 2016 increased the pension burden. This will further increase in the coming days.

We have around 14.5 lakh active armed forces – of three services of army, navy and air force put together – and their salary bill is around Rs 2.30 lakh crore. So, salaries and pensions take out close to Rs 3.50 lakh crore out of the total defence budget of Rs 5.25 lakh crore (as per 2022-23 budgetary figures). This leaves the Centre with little money to modernize the army and buy new weapons etc.

As we mentioned in these columns a few days ago, #Agnipath is meant to serve more purposes. Besides decreasing the pension bill, the scheme is also aimed at inducting more youthful and well trained men and women into armed forces to meet present and future challenges. Reports say, the quality of armed forces of China is much better than ours, in terms of tech skills or superior training.

Agnipath also is framed to militarise our youth like Israel or Russia, where conscription (compulsory recruitment) of youth into army is followed. In India, joining armed forces is purely voluntary. Agnipath will not force the youth in the age group of 17.5 to 21 (now 23) years. But, “catch them young” method will attract more eligible youth into our three forces. They will be given special training and preference in government jobs, after their stint of 4 years.


2 lakh Candidates shocked

What hurt the army candidates who have completed physical tests in March 2021 and are waiting for written exams to be recruited into army were shocked at the news of cancellation of their process. Last year, the armed forces were supposed to recruit around 50,000 youth. Around 2 lakh have appeared for the physical tests etc. They couldn’t digest the fact that their job prospects are closed by Agnipath.

Agnipath has a shorter tenure – of 4 years, instead of regular job of 20 years, and without pension. The announcement that only 25 per cent of them – of the 46,000 – this will be absorbed into army too angered the candidates. These youth are least bothered about the tech skills or future employment opportunities to Agniveeers etc. What they want is jobs for them immediately with full service 20 years and pension.

We must remember, these candidates -who indulged in protests and resorted to arson and violence – are from poorer sections and lowly educated. Most of them from Bihar, UP and Bengal were employed in petty jobs in unorganised sectors without stable wages or incomes. They were badly hit by Covid pandemic since early 2020 and are still to get a footing in life. For them, armed forces are a great source of employment. 

For such youth, getting an army job is equal to a well educated getting into IAS or going to the US as software professional. Moreover, the state and community specific regiments in army are a matter of pride. Agnipath’s new rules and system are not understood by these army candidates. There is no one to guide them properly or assure them that their interests will be protected. 

PM Modi can make changes

PM Narendra Modi can condone these youth, who are mostly guided by anger and unemployment, in resorting to arson and destruction. It is good that the Centre has already made some changes to Agnipath – that upper age is raised by two years, and 10 per cent quota introduced for defence jobs. But, this is not enough. All those who have appeared for tests in March 2021 must be given an opportunity to be recruited, in regular jobs.

Agnipath can be a parallel scheme for this year. From next year on, it can be expanded and the percentage of absorption can go up to 33 or 40 per cent. The railway police who have booked criminal cases against thousands of army candidates must withdraw the cases – as otherwise, future of these youth will be in trouble. Whether  or notAgnipath militarizes our youth, it will certainly criminalise them, unless they are pardoned.

Political battles and blame games are going on, one who’s behind these violent protests. We must understand these protests – of such widespread and magnitude – cannot be instigated by one single person or party. Army aspirants are still boiling with anger and frustration. The entire world is watching India, how recruitment of army has become an issue for rioting and massive destruction of public and private properties.

This is the time to act. 


Also Read:


Modi mark on Agnipath

Rama Krishna Sangem

Ramakrishna chief editor of excel India online magazine and website

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Rama Krishna Sangem

Excel India national news magazine is a media startup founded and piloted by Rama Krishna Sangem, a Hyderabad based senior journalist with over three decade experience in the field of media, mostly in print journalism. His rich experience in reporting for both Telugu and English newspapers and heading a TV news channel and some online outfits will be of immense use to this venture. Excel India English news magazine seeks to fill the gap of analytical understanding to our readers who today are confronted with myriad media platforms. Our online version not only offers regular updates and commentary on happenings around us, but also gives larger stories not limited by space constraints of a print magazine. Excel India is ably run by a team of senior journalists committed to values and quality standards in the profession. We urge you all to support and guide us in this endeavour. Reach us at