A big question before Rajnath in Modi 3.0- how to calm the uproar over Agniveer?

In the third term of Narendra Modi, Rajnath Singh has been given the post of Defense Minister for the second time. During the second term as Defense Minister, Rajnath’s priorities will include reviewing the Agneepath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces. Apart from this, apart from curbing the ongoing deadlock with China and increasing terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir, many reforms and other issues will also be included in his list of priorities.

With several political parties, some allies and the opposition demanding a review of the plan, the government is likely to take it on priority. According to the Indian Express report, the process of gathering feedback from the armed forces was already underway and Rajnath Singh had earlier said that the plan would be reviewed if needed. Some changes are likely to be made to the Agneepath plan based on the feedback and recommendations received from the army.

Recruitment in armed forces for 4 years under Agniveer Yojana

Rajnath Singh had earlier taken over as the Defence Minister in June 2019. During Rajnath’s first tenure as Defence Minister, the Modi government launched the Agneepath scheme in June 2022 for short-term recruitment of personnel in the armed forces. Under this, male and female candidates aged 17.5 to 21 years are recruited in the cadre below officer rank for four years. Those recruited under the scheme are called Agniveers. There is a provision to retain 25 percent of the recruited people for 15 years after 4 years.

BJP’s alliance partners expressed concern over the Agneepath plan

After the announcement of the scheme, violent protests broke out in many parts of the country, with a section of the youth opposing it. Soon after the results of the recent Lok Sabha elections, BJP’s alliance partners have raised concerns about the Agneepath scheme. The opposition too had criticised the scheme and promised to scrap it during the election campaign. In such a situation, addressing the concerns related to the scheme will be one of Rajnath’s priorities.

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Agneepath scheme is successful and will remain so- Rajnath Singh

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, in an interview to NDTV, rejected the opposition’s charge that the Agneepath scheme is not useful. He reiterated the government’s stand that the four-year recruitment programme will benefit a large section of the young, employable population. “I am confident that the Agneepath scheme is and will be a success. One of the reasons behind launching this scheme is to bring more number of youth into the armed forces,” he said.

Rajnath said, “It is not a crime to prepare Agniveers to be disciplined. I want to assure the youth that we will not allow anyone to play with their future. An Agniveer will learn new skills for four years and at the end of four years he will have a few lakh rupees.”

No permission to play with the future of youth- Defense Minister

During the interview, the Defence Minister said, “If any of them want to find a job they can. If any of them want to enter the paramilitary forces they can. If they want to enter the services then definitely they can. We have also kept reservation for them. It is not like anyone can ignore them. The private sector also wants to hire Agniveers. Our government will not allow anyone to play with the future of the youth.”

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Review of Agneepath Scheme

According to information received by The Indian Express, the Army is conducting an internal survey on the Agnipath scheme, based on which it is likely to prepare recommendations for the government on possible changes in the scheme. According to officials, the Army survey has sought comments from all stakeholders, including Agniveers, recruitment and training staff in various regiments of the Army, unit and sub-unit commanders (under whom Agniveers work). Officials said that the answers of all will be evaluated.

The survey will provide feedback on the comparative performance of Agniveers compared to soldiers recruited before the launch of the Agnipath scheme, competition among them and positive/negative qualities observed in Agniveers. Based on these details, the Army will suggest possible changes in the Agneepath scheme in terms of participation of Agniveers, permanent posts to Agniveers in the Army.

JDU expressed its desire to review the Agneepath scheme

JDU, which is part of the NDA government at the Center, has expressed its desire to review the Agneepath scheme. JDU national spokesperson KC Tyagi said, “There is anger among the voters regarding the Agneepath scheme. Our party wants that this scheme should be discussed in detail in the government so that its flaws can be removed.” Talking to the Indian Express, Tyagi said, “We have demanded a review of the Agneepath scheme on the basis of what senior BJP leader and Union Defense Minister Rajnath Singh said during his election campaign.”

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Chirag Paswan of the Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas), another NDA ally, also said in an interview to NDTV, “The Prime Minister has said that the platform is open for discussion. I believe we should discuss how much we can do through Agniveer as it is a matter related to the youth of our country. A review should be done.”

Uproar over Agnipath scheme

The Agnipath Recruitment Scheme was introduced by the Central Government in June 2022. There were massive protests against this in many states. After these violent protests, cases were registered against the youth involved in it.

So many recruitments under Agnipath so far

According to the information, two batches of 40,000 Agniveers in the Army have completed training and are on posting. The third batch of 20,000 Agniveers started training in November 2023. In the Navy, three batches of 7,385 Agniveers have completed training. In the Indian Air Force, 4,955 Agniveer air trainees have completed training.

According to sources, around 1.75 lakh Agniveers are expected to be recruited between 2022 and 2026. According to Lieutenant General Anil Puri, the then Additional Secretary, Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defense, the number of Agniveers will reach 1.25 lakh in the near future.

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