Upholding the validity of the Agnipath Scheme

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    • The Delhi High Court recently upheld the validity of the Agnipath scheme launched by the Union government for recruitment in the Armed Forces.

    More about the news

    • Legality of Agnipath scheme:
      • The Supreme Court had made the Delhi High Court the core forum to examine the question of the legality of the Agnipath scheme.
      • The High Court was responding to the petitions that challenged the constitutional validity of the scheme.
    • High Court’s response to petitions & criticisms:
      • National interest:
        • The court dismissed a bunch of petitions challenging the scheme and stated that the scheme has been introduced in the national interest to ensure that the Armed Forces are better equipped.
        • The court said “it’s needless to state the four years’ training period under the scheme would also instil a sense of nationalism in the recruits”, which would “more or less prompt them to use their skills and focus on the development of the country”.
      • Future employment of Agniveers:
        • The court also found no merit in the argument that the government had failed to make provision for the meaningful employment of Agniveers in the future.
        • The Government have in fact sought to extend entrepreneurship financial schemes such as MUDRA and Start-Up India to Agniveers as well”
        • The High Court said that its advantages of employment, skill certificates, 25% of selected candidates to be appointed in the regular Army cannot be overlooked.
      • Matter of pension:
        • On the matter of pension for the Agniveers, the court said that the petitioners had failed to realise the Indian government had not made it mandatory for youth to serve in the Armed Forces, as many nations do.

    More about the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme

    • About: 
      • Around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the service in just four years. 
      • Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
      • Recruits under the scheme will be known as “Agniveers”. 
    • Features:
      • Enrolment in all three services: 
        • Centralised online system to conduct rallies & campus interviews at recognised technical institutes such as the Industrial Training Institutes, and the National Skills Qualifications Framework.
      • Eligibility criteria: 
        • It is only for personnel below officer ranks. On an ‘All India All Class’ basis with the eligibility age ranging from 17.5 to 21 years, with medical and physical fitness standards.
        • Educational qualification: Class X-XII
        • Recruitment will be done twice a year.
      • Pay and Perks: 
        • Annual package of 4.76 lakh in the first year to 6.92 lakh in the fourth year along with hardship allowance.
        • Under the “Seva Nidhi” package (which is exempt from Income Tax), they will receive about 11.71 lakh, including contribution and interest, on completion of service. 
          • The recruits will have to contribute 30% of their monthly emoluments to Seva Nidhi, with a matching contribution made by the government. 
        • There will be no entitlement to gratuity and pensionary benefits under the scheme. 
    • Concerns:
      • No Pilot Project to Test the Scheme; Lead to the militarization of the society. 
      • May Dilute professionalism, military ethos and fighting spirit (takes 7-8 yrs to become fully ready combat soldier)
      • Will hit the basic ethos of Naam, Namak & Nishan (reputation of Battalion, fidelity & ensign)
      • Tourist soldiering is not a good idea for India’s security challenges.

    Centre’s opinion

    • Enhancing the youthful profile of the Armed Forces:
      • The Centre has defended the Agnipath scheme, saying that its biggest aim was to enhance the youthful profile of the Armed Forces and reduce the average age of soldiers from 32 years to 26 years over a period of time.
    • ‘Leader to led’ ratio:
      • With the introduction of the scheme, the ‘leader to led’ ratio will become 1:1 from the current ratio of 1:1.28, the Centre has said.
    • Well thought & studied decision:
      • The government also told the court that the impugned scheme is the result of various studies and deliberations such as the Kargil Review Committee, which proposed the retention of soldiers for a shorter duration of time as opposed to the existing structure of 15 to 20 years
      • The military intake and retention models of the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and France were considered by experts to analyse the efficiency and organisational benefits of short-term military service.  

    Way ahead

    • The government believes that this scheme can help the youth in the country who are not able to afford an education.
    • The central government has also rolled out a list of career choices for the 75% of Agniveers who will be demobilized after four years of service.
      • Those who wish to work will be given priority in CAPFs, police, Assam rifles and police and allied forces in several states.
    • Furthermore, it will also help the Agniveers to kickstart their second career with necessary bank loans – which will be given on a priority basis.

    Source: TH