Agnipath protests: A well-planned conspiracy to provoke
The protests against the Agnipath recruitment scheme might not seem as simple in objective and purpose, says BJP leader Prem Shukla.
The Agnipath scheme has been a trending subject throughout the country ever since it was unveiled by Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on June 14, 2022. While there have been several people who support the scheme, there seem to be protests in parts of Bihar, UP and Haryana, where there is a demand for an immediate rollback of the scheme.
The Agnipath scheme is creating an opportunity for the youth to get disciplined and trained as soldiers in the Army, Navy and Air Force. The main aim of the scheme is to lower the average age of personnel. Currently, the average age is 32 years. The scheme will help reduce it to 26 years of age.
The scheme aims to attract young talent in society who are more in tune with contemporary technological trends and plough back skilled, disciplined and motivated manpower into the society. It offers a contractual service for eligible candidates and the tenure of four years includes the training period.
After the completion of four years, 25 per cent of the candidates will be retained and selected for the regular army. The candidates will serve for a full term of 15 years of regular service. The remaining 75 per cent of Agniveers will get preferences in defence, Home, PSU and corporate jobs and can serve as a valuable asset for the country.
The candidates must be between the age bracket of 17.5 to 21 years of age to become eligible for the Agneepath scheme. However since there were no army recruitments during the pandemic period, the age limit has been extended to 23 for the year 2022.
There are several Agnipath scheme benefits offered to the candidates. The Agniveers will get a first-year salary package starting from Rs 4.76 lakh. The average graduate salary in India is about Rs 3 lakh. This provides the younger non-graduates participating in the scheme to get paid more than what an average graduate earns in the country. The candidates will get an upgrade in salary every year, which gets up to about Rs 6.92 lakh in the fourth year.
After the employee is relieved of service after 4 years where he gets a service fund of Rs 11.71 lakh called the 'Seva Nidhi' package. What's more, this amount is tax-free. The monthly contribution from the individual will partly contribute to the 'Seva Nidhi', including accrued interest thereon and matching contribution from the government equal to the accumulated amount of their contribution with interest. The Agniveers will further get a non-contributory insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh for the duration of their engagement period in the Indian Armed forces.
If any Agniveer is martyred during their service compensation of Rs 1 crore will be given to the immediate family members, apart from this, the salary of the remaining job will also be given. If a soldier becomes disabled during the job, they will get Rs 44 lakh ex-gratia and along with the salary and facility package of the remaining job will also be given.
Lt General Anil Puri, Additional Secretary in the Department of Military Affairs, said that in the beginning there will be recruiting 46,000 Agniveers. However, in future, there are plans to recruit up to 1.25 lakh Agniveers. He stated that in the coming 4-5 years, there will be a need for 50,000 to 60,000 Agniveers, which will later increase to 90,000 to 1 lakh. He said that the figure for recruitment will not be limited to 46,000.
Agniveers will be given hardship allowance, uniform allowance, canteen and medical facilities like a regular soldier. Apart from this, a travel allowance will also be given. A provision of 30-day leave has also been kept for Agniveers in one year along with additional medical leave.
It was further stated by Lt General Anil Puri that the Agniveers will be given the same allowance and facilities in Siachen or other areas which are available to a regular soldier. In terms of service, there shall be no discrimination of any form.
He reiterated the fact that this scheme was introduced for the betterment of the army and will not be withdrawn under any circumstances. He further stated that every year around 17,600 people are taking retirement from all three services before their tenure expires.
During the four-year service period to the nation, the Agniveers will be imparted with various military skills and experience, discipline, physical fitness, leadership qualities, courage and patriotism. Post this, 75 per cent of the Agniveers will be infused into the civil society where they can give tremendous contributions toward the nation-building process.
Furthermore, the Seva Nidhi will help the Agniveer to pursue their future dreams without much financial pressure, which usually is the case for young people from the financially deprived strata of society.
Under IGNOU's specially-designed degree programme, in-service training will count as 50 per cent credit required for a graduate degree, including both technical and non-technical and the remaining 50 per cent to come from a basket of courses that cover a wide array of subjects like Languages, Economics, History, Political Science, Public Administration, Sociology, Mathematics and so on to name a few. This programme is aligned with UGC norms and with the National Credit Framework/ National Skill Qualification Framework as mandated under the National Education Policy 2020. Further, it also has various exit points -- Undergraduate certificate on completion of 1st year, Undergraduate Diploma on completion of 1st and 2nd-year courses and Degree on completion of all the courses in a three-year timeframe. The Degree will be awarded by IGNOU as per UGC nomenclature and will be recognised both in India and abroad for employment as well as education.
The Union home ministry has decided to give priority to Agniveers who have completed 4 years under this scheme for recruitment in CAPFs and the Assam Rifles. They will also be recruited by the Telecom Service Providers in the field of Optical Fibre maintenance, Air Conditioning equipment, Provision of Infrastructure especially last-mile connectivity, Fibre To Home (FTTH) and in Customer Interface areas. TSPs agreed that the talent pool of trained/skilled and disciplined youth will be an asset for the country including the telecom sector.
Despite such immense benefits, monetary, educational and recruitment-based, there are several protests stating that there are no pensionary benefits nor a guarantee of employment post service. However, they fail to recognise that people who will be recruited permanently will receive pensions.
Further, every passing day, some PSU or other government agencies are offering preference in employing these Agniveers. Further, there is evidence pointing toward a possible conspiracy behind the violence in several states. On June 18, UP police arrested NSUI Leader and SP leader for provoking youth against the scheme.
Also, social media leaks have revealed the possibility of a conspiracy to create unrest in the country under the backdrop of violence. The entrance of Professional Protestors like Yogendra Yadav and Rakesh Tikait in the matter is another sign of well-planned protests.
As per reports, the UP police also arrested 9 coaching institute operators and 26 others in Aligarh in relation to violent protests against the scheme. It is common knowledge that these institutes charge lakhs of rupees per candidate, the success rate of candidates is 1 in 25. Hence many students return in hopes of being selected the next time.
The Agnipath scheme seems to have removed such institutes from the scene. Such institutes are very common in UP, Bihar and Haryana where the major brunt of the protests seem to be. Such findings have sure provided a new lens to look at these protests as they might not seem as simple in objective and purpose.
The author is the national spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party. Views expressed are solely of the author
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