In Defence of Agnipath

Many developed countries have a mandatory requirement for the youth to serve armed forces
Members of All India Democratic Youth Organisation (AIDYO) and All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) stage a protest against the 'Agnipath' scheme introduced by the Centre Government, in Kolkata on Saturday. [Representational Image]
Members of All India Democratic Youth Organisation (AIDYO) and All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) stage a protest against the 'Agnipath' scheme introduced by the Centre Government, in Kolkata on Saturday. [Representational Image] File: ANI

It is really sad and unfortunate that there has been violence and protest over the Agnipath Scheme announced by the Union Government recently even as the Union Minister and former Army Chief General (retired) V.K. Singh has made it amply clear that joining army was voluntary and there was no conscription while alleging that the Opposition was trying to mislead the youngsters.

It happens only in India. People who lack the basic wherewithal to become a soldier want to join Indian Army as full-time soldiers.

Anybody who loves his country and would like to join the armed forces for the sheer love of his motherland, would never indulge in arson, violence and damage the strategic national assets.

What kind of soldiers would these undisciplined vandals make? What is worse is that the gullible youth are being misguided by people who hardly know anything about army recruitment.

Many developed countries have a mandatory requirement for the youth to serve armed forces. This makes them physically fit, disciplined and competent for all kind of jobs.

If an eighteen-year youth joins this scheme he would earn a handsome amount during training and service and get a lump sum of close to 12 lac rupees in his bank account plus good training, self-confidence and better chance of getting a decent job.

Agniveers can defend themselves and their fellow citizens and most importantly they would each have a capital of 12 lacs to start their own venture. They will also qualify for bank loans and above all, each Agniveer (ex-soldier) will get an insurance of 48 lacs. 25 percent of the young soldiers will be absorbed in regular army.

There have been many instances when the Short Service Commission officers entered the Civil Services after their commission was over, and they reached the highest echelons of the respective service, to the surprise of even the direct recruits.

Let’s consider the various options before the Agniveers. First, don’t join it; spend time doing your 10th and 12th at your own cost, then find a 3rd grade college and do a useless graduation and spend the rest of your life trying to find a job. Second, join Agnipath, leave after 4 years with 23.5 lacs in hand and start a business.

Third, join Agnipath, pursue graduation at the cost of Armed forces, and leave after 4 years with 23.5 lacs in hand. Fourth, join Agnipath, do graduation, leave after 4 years to join other uniformed forces and lead a respectable life.

Fifth, join Agnipath, do graduation while in job, apply for CDS in 4th year and become a commissioned officer in Armed Forces for the rest of life. Sixth, join Agnipath, complete 4 years, work hard and get into 25% cream and serve the nation for next 17 years.

It is all about choice. The Government is not going to pick you from your home and forcibly enlist you. It is your wish; if you want to shape a dignified career or spend time standing at a paan and beedi shop, gossiping, what a host of our youth end up doing. After all, it’s your life, your wish!

If you are cut out for ‘manrega’ obviously, you cannot appreciate what you are losing, like the farmers, who shot in their feet by launching an agitation. Like them only you spend your precious time and life protesting on road, opening youtube channels, provoking people and becoming online advisor to the Government, like many rejected young boys and girls are doing right now.

There are 1000s of private training centres (especially in UP, Bihar, Haryana) which charge lakhs per person to provide training for youngsters to get recruited in the army.

They are up in arms against Agnipath scheme because it will eat into their business and many of them might be forced to shut shop. If the youngsters are joining the defence services for 4 years stint, through Agnipath scheme, why will they pay these coaching centres lakhs of rupees to get trained?

These coaching centres are instigating and using their students by feeding them misinformation. They are making videos and circulating them through social media to launch an intense propaganda campaign with the help of their trainers and students, who also are falling prey to it.

And then there are vested interests within the armed forces, who think that the defence establishment of the country is their family preserve and that there will be dent in their right to perpetuate their hereditary hold thereon. They will not be impressed by a similar scheme being followed by Israel, a nation of just eighty lakh people, that has enabled it to keep as many as 57 hostile countries at bay.

Dozens of such videos are being circulated. In some videos, it is also said that burning public property is constitutional way of protest. This kind of propaganda is very effective as the largely rustic students look up to their trainers and idolize them.

Most ridiculous reasons such as - 75% who are retired after 4 years will become terrorists, Modi govt is turning the army into training centres for security guards for private companies, etc. are given without any basis.

The youngsters, who cannot think for themselves are also a legitimate prey of the unscrupulous politicians, who use them as fodder to feed violence and anarchy to further their political agenda. It seems that these rioters are not interested in joining army.

They could be hired goons by opposition parties to create serial unrest to project our PM as a failure. They did it with agriculture reforms, CAA, NRC and now Agniveer Scheme, which is the dream project of Late Shri Bipin Rawat Ji and there cannot be anybody better or more qualified than him in this respect.

The only flip side of the scheme is that many youngsters have been training hard to get recruited in the army; and if normal recruitment is stopped then it would be injustice for those individuals. But violence is no solution to such apprehensions. It would be any day better to approach the GOI and seek redressal.

By experience, we should have known that this Government has the welfare of the people at heart and is reasonable enough to find solutions rather than stand on prestige.

Bhushan Lal Razdan, formerly of the Indian Revenue Service, retired as Director General of Income Tax (Investigation), Chandigarh.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.

The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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