There has been no recruitment in Indian Army for over two years. The basic reason cited for not holding Recruitment Rallies during this period was ongoing Pandemic- COVID 19. Now it has been learnt that Government was possibly contemplating of introducing Tour of Duty / Agnipath in services.
The Army at present is short of more than one lakh soldiers with deficiency growing at the rate of more than 5000 Jawans every month. The basic features of the scheme are that Jawans, who will be known as Agniveers in the Army, will be taken for four years contract. First six months will be spent on their basic training and rest of the three and half years they will serve in combat environment.
Around 40 to 45 thousand jawans in the age group of 17 and half and 21 years are likely to be recruited in all India class composition under the first phase of this scheme. After the contract of four years they will be released in the environment with lumpsum gratuity, skill certificate and other secondary benefits.
However, 25 percent out these will be taken back and absorbed as regular soldiers with certain conditions and they shall be eligible for pension after 15 years of re- recruited service. The Agniveers will form distinct rank and will wear distinct insigina as part of their uniform, which is itself a ridiculous proposition.
The stated aim of the Government is to keep the Army young and also reduce the pension liability on defence budget. By this Scheme it is true the pension liability will be reduced and also the average age of fighting combat soldiers which are the cutting edge in the conflict / war type situation will come down by four years over a period of time. But wil it result in an efficient and can mean fighting machine, is doubtful. It is expected that these youth are young, trained and motivated they will surely able get suitable jobs in Corporate World and in other organs of Government including CAPF on their competence, skill and experience, but that too is conjecture.
However, majority of Veterans feel that such a scheme will fail to yield desired results and will have more disadvantages than advantages in a long run. Indian Army works on strong ethos of “Naam”, “Namak” and “Nishan” where as these youth who are only for a small period of engagement of four years may lack this indomitable spirit due to insufficient training and uncertainty of their future. Rather than releasing 75 percent of these well trained soldiers with combat experience in competitive and uncertain environment, the Government should confirm absorbing them in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), a requirement that has been deliberately never been addressed by the MHA
Not only CAPF will get well trained, motivated and combat experienced soldiers but also reduce their expenditure on training. With past experience, it is envisaged that Corporate World is unlikely to absorb them since the job requirement, technical expertise and the work culture are much different. In that condition, these well trained youth will do petty security related jobs or even can drift towards Anti Social activities just to remain afloat.
Considering all the pros and cons the Government is forcing an unproven experiment hurriedly on Army when the threat in our Northern and Western Borders in recent past has increased manifold. Russia-Ukraine War has also given clear warning that the Russian soldiers who were on conscription for two to three years have not proved to be very effective combat soldiers in the battle zone. Army with modern equipment and weapons but untrained manpower and poor junior leadership cannot win battles.
Considering the case in it’s entirety, it may be advisable to analyse the model of ” Tour of Duty “/ Agnipath in much greater detail specially of their absorbing by CAPF or initially run a pilot project rather than pushing it hurriedly which may have adverse implications on the security of the nation later.