Modi mark on Agnipath

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Rama Krishna Sangem

Narendra Modi led BJP government at the Centre on June 14 announced a game changer scheme for recruitment of Indian armed forces – Angnipath. Those who would be recruited under this are called Agniveers.  On the face of it, this looks like any other short service army drive. However, a deeper look tells us this is a game changer idea to militarize Indian youth in short term, and Indian society in the long run.

As per the scheme unveiled by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, the Centre will recruit around 46,000 youth to Agnipath by this October-November, for a period of four years. Agniveers will get a monthly salary of around Rs 40,000. After the four years, only 25 per cent of them will be absorbed into the army, while others will be sent back to homes, with a onetime package of Rs 11.71 lakh to settle down in life.

Agnieveers will be taken into army, navy and air force, in the below the officer ranks. They will get a 90 day training on all aspects of armed forces at “All India, all class” – level. Both boys and girls in the age group of 17.5 to 21 years will be recruited. As Union Home Minister Amit Shah said, those who return Agnipath will be taken into several central armed police service jobs. They will be given a certificate, which will confer them some privileges.

Already, some BJP ruled states have announced that the demobilized (who return home) will be given preference in state government jobs and other business opportunities like dealership. An army officer of northern command, based in Srinagar said that these Agniveers will help local police in solving street fights, prevent harassment of women etc. So, in a way, they will be preservers of law and order.

However, major opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi of Congress and Mayawati of BSP have opposed this scheme, saying that it would lower the quality of armed forces, as the tenure of these Agniveers is just four years. Their training will be somewhat different from that of regular armed forces. Moreover, the focus of Agniveers will be on their future jobs – after four years of service in army – and naturally they will be risk averse.

The government and the army officers deny this. They say, the average age of armed personnel will come down from the present 32 to 28 years, on par with the best in the world. With Agnipath, there will be opportunity to a majority of Indian youth to serve in armed forces. As most of the educated youth enroll for this scheme, the quality of innovation and technology will improve in armed forces.

As of now, three Indian armed forces have a strength of around 14.50 lakh. The Centre every year pays around Rs 2.15 lakh as salaries to them, while another Rs 1.10 lakh pensions. This takes out a lion’s share of Rs 3.25 crore of defence budget (for 2022-23). Some suspect Agnipath scheme is to cut down pensions bill, as Agniveers are not paid pension. Mayawati says, the rural youth who want to serve army for pension benefits will be disappointed.

But, more than the monetary aspects, Agnipath is significant for other reasons. Till now, joining army in India is purely voluntary – like any other job. With this new short duration service, many educated youth in their prime of youth will join armed forces and get a feel of how our army works. This will promote patriotism, and nationalism among the youth. These things are closer to the heart of PM Modi and his party. 

If the first batch of Agniveers are recruited successfully, the number – from 46,000 – may go up in the coming years. Then we can see around us lakhs of youth who are trained with armed forces and battle ready –  like in Israel, China or Russia, where conscription to army is a must. The opposition parties feel this will hit their electoral prospects in the long run.*

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