Agnipath scheme may undergo massive changes; 50 per cent Agniveers likely to be retained
Sources tell Asianet Newsable that among the proposals under deliberation is the need to incorporate 50 per cent of Agniveers into our organization on a permanent basis, aiming to address the decreasing manpower levels within the armed forces. Besides, there is also the proposal to increase the maximum age bar to 23 years.
A year after the launch of transformational reform in the country’s military history, the Indian armed forces are mulling to bring changes in the Agnipath scheme that includes raising Agniveers' absorption to 50 per cent from the existing 25 per cent, increasing the maximum age bar to 23 years, and inclusion of youths having a technical background. Keeping in mind the issues that would come up in the future, sources told Asianet Newsable, "The works are in progress on such proposals. We are working on absorbing 50 per cent Agniveers permanently with an objective to match the declining strength of the forces at the soldier’s levels."
It is pertinent to mention here that the forces have a restricted number of recruitments scheduled for the next three years. “In the technical streams like aviation, engineering, and electronics among others, we are facing challenges in inducting eligible Agniveers. This issue is also under discussion at a higher level,” the sources said.
Currently, candidates aged between 17.5 – 21 years of age are being considered for Agniveer posts under the Agnipath scheme, which was launched in June 2022. The forces are of the opinion that the cap in the maximum recruitment age at 21 years leaves no space for candidates having a technical background. “The discussion is on revising the maximum age limit and mulling to raise it to 23 years. Once it is announced, we can have youth passing out of polytechnic institutions.”
Besides, as part of the proposals “we are planning to increase the number of recruitment rallies so that deficiencies at the soldier’s levels could be filled. Else it would take years to complete and also would have functional and operational issues.”
By 2026, about 1.75 lakh youths are expected to be inducted under the Agnipath scheme. In June 2022, the then additional secretary in the department of military affairs, Lt Gen Anil Puri had said that the number of Agniveers would be 1.25 lakh in the near future.
“In the next 4-5 years, our intake (of soldiers) will be 50,000-60,000 and will increase to 90,000-1 lakh subsequently. We have started small at 46,000 to analyse the scheme... and to build up infrastructure capacity," Lt General Anil Puri had said.
It should be mentioned that about 60,000 soldiers retire every year.
Acute shortage of soldiers in three services
In 2021, Parliament was informed about the shortage of troops in the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force to the tune of 1.18 lakh, 11,587 and 5,819, respectively. The Agnipath scheme, which was announced on June 16 last year, saw violence across the country over four years of service and absorption of only 25 per cent. Later, the paramilitary forces announced that they would induct 10 per cent of retired Agniveers into their forces. The intention of this scheme is to make the armed forces a younger, fitter, and more diverse profile for facing future challenges.