Defence veterans give mixed reactions to Agnipath scheme

The process of recruiting about 46,000 youth — boys and girls aged between 17.5 years and 21 years — for the armed forces for a four-year tenure has received both praise and criticism.
For representational purposes.
For representational purposes.

BENGALURU: The Central government’s Tour of Duty (ToD) -- Agnipath scheme, a process of recruitment of about 46,000 youth — boys and girls aged between 17.5 years and 21 years — for the armed forces for a four-year tenure, has received mixed reactions from Defence veterans. Some of them have criticised the scheme, while others have welcomed it.

Lt Gen Abhay Krishna (Retd) called the Agnipath scheme, a “well-thought out and farsighted initiative”. He added that “this would help protect our increasing assets across the world, where optics of having Indian Army as boots on ground may not be taken well”. The Army veteran added that this Agnipath, in times ahead, “will result in a well-trained and disciplined manpower to meet India’s security needs and its rising aspirations. The Ukraine conflict has shown how a similar model has worked in the country. Since 2014, on the basis of rotation, Ukraine had employed over six lakh personnel for short duration to fight in the restive Donbas region. This helped to create a huge combat experienced reserve which came in handy when Russia invaded,” he said.

Krishna said that “Agnipath may help in raising private military companies in the same way as the US had deployed Blackwater in Iraq or the Russians had used the Wagner group in Syria or how the Chinese are using Academia in Xinjiang,” said Lt Gen Krishna.

Lt General Rakesh Sharma (Retd) said Agnipath will prove “transformational” for the Defence services. “The scheme will bring about a national balance in Army recruitment. It has many positives (for Agniveers) such as financial package, concern for battle casualties and disabilities. There is also a decent severance package. Agnipath should be dynamic. As the process moves ahead, it should be tweaked where necessary,” said Sharma.

Air Marshal Philip Rajkumar (Retd) also welcomed the move and said the government is trying to do something new. “Let us wait for four years and see how it comes out. A lot of lessons are to be learnt. It is not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution. Other countries also have a similar scheme. Israel, like India, which is surrounded by hostile neighbours, has had mandatory conscription in the Army since its independence in 1948,” said the IAF veteran. Lt General Vinod Bhatia (Retd), former director-general, military operations (DGMO), Director, Centre for Joint Warfare Studies, tweeted, calling the ToD “a death knell for armed forces”.

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