IDR Blog

Walking the ‘Agnipath’ to become an ’Agniveer’: A bold step with Risks and Uncertainties?
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
Brig Pradeep Sharma | Date:02 Jul , 2022 0 Comments
Brig Pradeep Sharma
a regularly contributes defence related columns to news dailies.


Addressing our class in Staff College the Directing Staff (DS) looked around and smiled , then he handed over our home work note sheets referred to Own Time Work (OTW), giving the work sheet to a particular Officer he said ‘to be a good cheater, one has to be more intelligent and smarter than the originator of the idea or risk being caught’ , your ‘Code Words and Nick Names’ are borrowed from someone else, you have written well but failed to change them’, need to copy intelligently!

To borrow a concept of Western Powers ‘America or Israel’ or to justify a change by giving examples of other countries does not amount to a validation of the new proposal, in fact if I may suggest, it indicates a lack of ideas , imagination as well as creativity. Even the term ‘Tour of Duty’ is borrowed. This in no way suggests that the Armed forces did not have a large number of sittings and deliberations as per some reports .

The major stake holders in this case are the Battalions/Regiments , their Commanding Officers, JCOs and NCOs,they should have been taken in the loop and views obtained even before the policy was announced. Perhaps they were? Or as some suggest, the Government thrust this upon the Armed forces and to justify it? Who knows!

The Western Models

Armed forces are shaped in keeping with the security and socio economic environments of the nation. The nature of operations, technological advancement, stability of the borders, attitude of neighbours, the perceived role, responsibility and threat perception.

America has had the ‘Tour of Duty’ concept implemented  for an eight year stint.Russia , China  , Norway and Israel ( compulsory military service )have their own time lines and conditions.Why the western methods cannot work in Indian environment.  Various aspects are discussed in brief:-

    • Different threat perceptions.
    • Different levels of Motivation, Aptitudes and Skills.
    • Incomparable respect for Soldiers. The Governments and Society respect Soldiers quite visibly. While at Washington in 2010 I witnessed the home coming of a ‘Corporal’ from Afghanistan, people had gathered in large numbers at the hotel lobby, military band included , so was the press, quite a surprise for me , having never been witness to such an event in India.
    • Size of the population, state of economies and job opportunities differ.
    • Levels of literacy differ, percentages of unemployment vary.In the USA only 2 percent of the veterans fail to get employment after leaving. In the Indian scenario promises of ‘Lateral Absorption’ have not been implemented as desired. Take only Punjab  as an example out of three lakh ESM only   a mere one percent have been employed.
    • Veterans are sought after in these countries, many have created large corporates. In India corporates employ ESM on physical guarding duties with a shamefully low wage and exploitation to the hilt. The Infantry soldier is equated to a ‘Semi Skilled Worker’ as of now, hence the industry pays him accordingly.
    • None of the countries named need Boots on Ground barring Israel which has successfully strengthened her military  to achieve a level of dissuasive deterrence to ensure its Territorial Integrity.The aggressive and punitive reaction to any act of violence is enough to keep her adversaries at bay. Men and Women who serve the IDF enjoy unparalleled respect. The IDF spends a huge amount on R& D for defense equipment and many later set up their own Defense Industries too.
    • Only by holding ground can an army ensure the sanctity of our borders. Technology can at best be a force multiplier to facilitate the task of holding ground, repelling attacks or supporting attacks.
    • Contractual soldiers will not stand and fight to last man. Ukraine being the recent example.Will the ‘Agniveer’ stand up to such physical threats as a general rule and war or combat gives one no second chance.
    • Lastly, the Chinese in Korea,  Americans in Vietnam and Russians in Ukraine, failed to control the nimble footed, motivated and determined soldiers of these countries in-spite of the huge technical advantage.A soldier fights for ‘Self Respect, Dignity and Pride’ or Naam, Namak and Nishan.
    • The Kargil Committee Recommendations(KCR) clearly state the following:-
    • Requirement of a CDS. Appointed after much delay, the role and responsibility left much to be desired as did other human facets of leadership. Professional competence, strength of character and a strong sense of loyalty to the organisation as well as Nation need to be the singular distinguishing factors in the appointment to such an office where National Interests are at stake. The next CDS has been long in waiting.
    • Better and closer coordination amongst Border Guarding Agencies and Army.Border Guarding went to CAPFs and Assam Riffles. East Ladakh reflected a gap in intelligence sharing and joint responsibility. Best left at that.
    • Need for a younger Army.A reduction of Color Service from 17 years to 7 to 10 years was recommended. Nothing moved until the surprise announcement of a ‘Game Changer’ in the form of Angnipath and Agniveer, the KCR report at  no stage spoke about ‘Contractual Soldiers’.A younger Army at what cost? ‘Josh’ sans ‘Hosh’!!??5. The controversial Agniveer Recruitment policy appears to have been thrust upon the Armed Forces even before this thought was debated at the Battalion / Regimental Levels with the troops, JCOs and NCOs, the major stake holders.Barely days after the grandiose announcement amidst the backlash of agitations, several modifications were announced :-
    • Extension of age for those who were waiting over the past two years. However, this changed the terms of engagement from one of a regular job to that of a contractual period of engagement after they had already been through a major part of the recruitment process. Unfair?
    • Back tracking from an all India Class composition to retaining the tried and tested Regimental System.
    • All guns blazing, senior officers went on record in praise of the scheme. The Government announced employment opportunities with multiple agencies to make it lucrative.
    • One State has passed a resolution urging the Government to roll back the Agnipath Scheme. An issue of this import should have been debated extensively in Parliament.

However, the politicization of this entire scheme came about with the manner in which it was announced by the Hon’ble Raksha Mantri along with the three Chiefs and the Defense Secretary.Their body language on the stage lacked the enthusiasm favouring the scheme.

Being an internal matter of the Armed Forces, after due approval by the Ministry , it should have been left to the Adjutant General and his counter parts in the other two services to issue instructions to the Recruitment Directorate , making it applicable to all ‘Fresh Recruits’. This would certainly have allowed the Defense Forces a semblance of the apolitical image they enjoy and prevented other political parties from jumping in the fray to ignite social agitations.

The almost simultaneous announcement by the Hon’ble Prime Minister on the creation of Jobs and recruiting 2.5 additional civilians into the MOD, reflect a political motive.

Ruing the high pension bill on one hand and at the same time adding numbers on the other just did not gel. Of the 13 lakh drawing pensions from the defense budget, 4 lakh are civilians,this would now become 6.5 lakh. The ‘ Actual Tail’ would be heavier than the Teeth which is the war fighting machinery!‘The average annual defense civilian pension is roughly Rs. 5.38 lakhs versus Rs. 1.38 lakhs for military pensioners, reflecting longer career spans for the former.’

Bear in mind that the Civilian Employees are governed by a different set of rules which protect their interests, they serve till 60th us enjoy the benefits of several Pay Commissions to outweigh the pension drawn by an average jawan who superannuates at roughly 35.Add to this, the impact of the NFFU/OROP the Civilians and  CAPFs enjoy.

Follow Up and Discussions

A multitude of factors which challenge it’s practicality and fairness to the recruits, the unit, the organisation including its operational effectiveness and to the Nation since it impinges on National Security and Territorial Integrity need to be addressed.

Not merely ‘Jobs’ for the jobless.

Left in the lurch, the Armed Forces are at odds to adopt a baby created by Politicians and Bureaucrats who lack an in depth perception of what makes the Army tick’. The Army’s ‘Right Sizing dilemma’ Security Wise blog by Dr Bharat Karnad 01 June.


    • The training period and qualification need to be based on Arm / Service specific requirements ranging from Basic Military Training to specialized training in order to fit the recruit into his team, capable of delivering desired results in battle..
    • Increase service to 10 years. Understandably it takes anything upto 6 to 8 years to shape and integrate a soldier.Having invested in his recruitment, selection and training, he should normally be gainfully employed as ‘Return on Investments’(ROI) before letting him go. 4 years prevents both, fitting him into the team as well as gainfully utilizing his skills to achieve an ROI desired.
    • Alternately,consider retaining 75 percent and laterally absorb 25 percent into CAPFs State Armed Police Forces.
    • Commanding officer be empowered to offer this manpower through DGR to the MHA at positions parallel to what they held in the armed forces with same length of service.Thus eliminating the possibility of being stigmatized as ‘ Army Rejects’ as well as the insecurity in the minds of the Jawan and his family.
    • Pass legislation to overcome the reluctance of CAPFs in lateral absorption of ESM, mostly perhaps due to the different work culture even though they have picked upeverything from the Army , right from badges of rank to officers messes,  sainik sammelans ,bands, canteens etc  since their raising was initiated by army officers.
    • The corporate world should be kept at bay, positions of Security Guards need to stop since these jobs are demeaning and exploitative. An ESM by and large does not easily fit into corporate culture due to the vast difference in the environment and work ethics. Thus this option be left as voluntary.
    • Reduce the number of civilians paid from defense budget, a major challenge for any government, however with the absolute majority being enjoyed, it should not be beyond this Government given the will to do so.


In these muddied waters, clarity will only come once the mud settles with time and required gaps are plugged to suit the needs.

A disgruntled unemployed youth, trained in the use of military hardware pose a challenge to internal security, thus the promised employment needs to be enforced.

The bottom line remains the constant cry of the services for a fair and just treatment to restore their Pride and Dignity, which may just make the services more attractive to our youth.

To build morale,pride in serving in the Forces, is the bounden duty of Governments and Society.

Much needs to be done to build the morale of the Soldier. Equitable treatment is a must and thus the need to bring in equation between the Army and CAPFs.

Building National Character and National Pride is a responsibility of the country’s education system and society in general. Why should it be left to the Armed Forces.

Rate this Article
Star Rating Loader Please wait...
The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

Post your Comment

2000characters left