Government unveils radical changes in recruitment of soldiers
New Delhi: India on Tuesday unveiled a “transformative” scheme called “Agnipath” for the recruitment of soldiers into the Army, the Navy and the Air Force largely on a short-term contractual basis with an aim to cut the ballooning salary and pension bills and enable a youthful profile of the armed forces.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh provided details of the new initiative at a media briefing shortly after the Prime Minister-led Cabinet Committee on Security approved the scheme which the government said would allow “patriotic and motivated” youth to serve in the armed forces for a period of four years.
“Under the ‘Agneepath’ scheme, Indian youth will be provided an opportunity to serve in the armed forces as ‘Agniveer’. This scheme has been brought to strengthen the security of the country. It is a transformative scheme,” Singh said in presence of the three service chiefs.
He said the infusion of disciplined, motivated and skilled ‘Agniveers’ back into society after military service, would be a great asset for the nation as it will be a “win-win proposition”.
Describing it a major defence policy reform to usher in a “new era” in the human resource policy of the three services, the defence ministry said the scheme comes into immediate effect and will govern the enrolment for the three services, implying that existing framework of employment for soldiers will cease to exist.
It said the armed forces will recruit 46,000 ‘Agniveers’ this year and the eligible age for selection will be in the range of 17.5 years to 21 years. The recruitment under the scheme is set to kick within 90 days.
The monthly salary of an ‘Agniveer’ in the first year of employment would be Rs 30,000 and the in-hand amount would be Rs 21,000 as Rs 9,000 would go to a corpus with an equal contribution of the government.
Subsequently, the monthly salary in the second, third and fourth year will be Rs 33,000, Rs 36,500 and Rs 40,000. Each ‘Agniveer’ will get an amount of Rs 11.71 lakh as ‘Seva Nidhi Package’ and it will be exempted from income tax.
There will be no entitlement to gratuity and pensionary benefits and the new recruits will be provided non-contributory life insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh for the duration of their engagement period in the armed forces.
Upon the completion of four years of service, based on organisational requirements and policies promulgated by the armed forces from time-to-time, ‘Agniveers’ will be offered an opportunity to apply for permanent enrolment in the armed forces.
“The new process will herald a paradigm shift in our recruitment process and will necessitate changes in the way we impart training to our recruits and soldiers, in enhancing their combat potential,” Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande said at the joint press briefing.
He said there will be “no compromise” on physical, medical and professional standards and parameters that were in place for recruitment of soldiers in the Army.