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Agniveers will never constitute the entire army: NSA Doval on Agnipath recruitment scheme

New Delhi: The Central government has decided to go ahead to implement the Agnipath scheme that triggered widespread protests in several states, with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval stating that there will be no roll back of the new short-term recruitment scheme for the armed forces.

In an exclusive interview with ANI on Tuesday, NSA Doval said that Agniveers, the recruits of the special Agnipath military scheme will never constitute the whole army. "Agniveers will never constitute the whole army. Those Agniveers who become regulars eventually will undergo intensive training, acquire experience over a period of time," Doval said.

NSA also termed the Agnipath scheme is not a "standalone" scheme and said that it was the Central government's priority to make India secure and strong.

"There's a need to look at it in a perspective. Agnipath isn't a standalone scheme in itself. When PM Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, one of his prime priorities was how to make India secure and strong. That required many avenues, many steps - multitude of them," NSA Ajit Doval said.

"Broadly speaking, they come under the four heads. It requires equipment, it requires change in systems and structures, it requires change in technology, it requires change in manpower, policies and they have to be futuristic," he added.

The newly launched scheme had triggered protests from aspiring defence personnel who are asking for a rollback of the scheme. Several opposition parties have also voicing their reservations also called for a rollback.

Seeking to allay apprehensions of aspirants that the bulk of them will be left with an uncertain future after four years, the NSA said: My message to the youth who want to become 'Agniveers' is that be positive, have faith in the nation, have faith in the leadership and also in yourself."

"Every youth of this country who has got the desire and motivation and feels a sense of commitment to defend the country gets an opportunity. His energy and talent are used to make this country strong," Doval said.

The government introduced the Agnipath recruitment scheme on June 14 under which recruits - called 'as Agniveers' - will serve for a period of four years after which 75 percent will be retired without benefits.

The youngsters recruited under the scheme will be called "Agniveers", who will be in the age group of 17.5 to 21 years and receive a monthly salary of Rs 30,000 to Rs 40,000. For 2022, the government has allowed people up to the age of 23 to apply.

The scheme saw massive protests across the country with several states reporting incidents of violence.
Speaking on protests against #AgnipathScheme, NSA Doval said, "I think that the protests, raising your voice is justified and is permitted in a democracy. But this vandalism, this violence is not permitted and will not be tolerated at all."

"I think that the protests, raising your voice is justified and is permitted in a democracy. But this vandalism, this violence is not permitted and will not be tolerated at all."

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on June 17 asserted that the Agnipath scheme is a golden opportunity for the Indian youth to join the Armed Forces and serve their motherland. In a statement, Singh, said that many youths did not get the opportunity to join the Armed Forces, as recruitment process could not take place for last two years.

Keeping in mind the future of the youth, Rajnath Singh stated that the government, on the directions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has increased the age limit for the recruitment of Agniveers from 21 years to 23 years for the recruitment cycle of 2022.

"The relaxation of age indicates that the Government cares for our youth. Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence and the Services are committed to commence the recruitment process at the earliest. We invite the youth to join the Armed Forces and serve the Nation through Agnipath," the Defence Minister said.

Addressing a tri-Service press conference on Sunday, Lieutenant General Anil Puri informed that 'Agnipath' is a long pending reform which was even recommended by the Kargil review Committee. He further mentioned that recruitment of soldiers under the scheme will increase to over 1.25 lakh in next 4-5 years.

"In the next 4-5 years, our intake of soldiers will be 50,000-60,000, which will increase to 90,000 - 1 lakh subsequently. We've started small at 46,000 to analyse the scheme...and to build up infra capacity," Additional Secretary Lt Gen Anil Puri, Department of Military Affairs (DMA) said.

"We want a mix of josh and hosh and that is why we wanted to reduce the age profile. The average age is 32 years at present and we want to reduce it as per the recommendations of the Kargil review committee and Arun Singh committee report," Lt Gen Arun Puri said.

All three previous heads of Defence forces along with the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) worked for 2 years for the scheme. They analyzed meticulous details of the scheme, the top military officer said.

On giving priority to Agniveers, he said, "The announcements regarding the reservations for 'Agniveers' announced by the different ministries and departments were pre-planned for solider recruited under Agnipath scheme."

The 'Agniveers' would get the same allowance in areas like Siachen and other areas which are applicable to the regular soldiers serving at present. No discrimination against them in service conditions, Lt General Anil Puri further informed.

"No discrimination against them in service conditions," he added. "This reform was long pending. We want to bring youthfulness and experience with this reform. Today, a large number of jawan are in their 30s and officers are getting command much later than in the past," he added.

Notably, Agniveers' will get a compensation for Rs 1 crore if he sacrifices his life in service of the nation.

By December first week, the Indian Army will get the first batch of 25,000 'Agniveers' and the second batch would be inducted around February 2023 making it 40,000, Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa said while addressing the tri-service presser.

For the Indian Air Force (IAF), the registration process for the first batch of Agniveer will start from June 24 and from July 24 the phase 1 online examination process would begin.

"The first batch would be enrolled by December and training would commence by December 30," Air Marshal SK Jha said.

Notably, the Indian Navy will welcome the first naval 'Agniveers' (both men and qomen) batch at the training establishment INS Chilka, Odisha by November this year.

"Both female and male Agniveers are allowed for this, "Vice Admiral Dinesh Tripathi said while adding that 30 women officers are currently sailing on different Indian Navy ships.

We have decided that the women recruited under Agnipath scheme will be deployed on warships also, he added.

Under Agnipath recruitment policy, soldiers (between the ages of 17.5 years and 21 years) recruited in the defence forces will be inducted as 'Agniveers' - a distinct rank in the Armed Forces, different from any other existing rank.

Once selected, the aspirants will go through training for six months and then they will be deployed for three and a half years. During this period, they will be provided an attractive monthly package of Rs 30,000 per month with upgradation upto Rs 40,000 per month in 4th year.

After a four-year engagement period, up to 25 per cent of each specific batch of Agniveers will be enrolled in regular cadre of the Armed Forces. Importantly, during this period, 30 percent of their salary will be set aside under a 'Seva Nidhi' programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month along with providing accrue interest.

At the end of the four-year period, Agniveer will be accorded Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free. Additionally, they will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years. (ANI)

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