Reaction to Agnipath scheme shows lack of consultation and connect with youth

Government seems to have learnt nothing from the farmers agitation

Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra

There seems to be a complete disconnect between BJP and people today particularly the youth.

When BJP was in the Opposition it unerringly seemed to have the pulse of the people with it. Every time the common masses faced a problem whether it is price rise, water shortage, petrol hike, it was the BJP which knew about it and gave voice to it with strong protests.

But today being in the government and that too with massive majority somehow its “touch” with the people and also the youth seems to have been lost.

MS Education Academy

What else could be the reason for scheme after scheme of the government faltering completely in assessing what the people or the youth want.

The central government has the support of the people at large there is no question about it. But electoral victory is one thing and being sensitive to and aware of the needs and requirements of the people particularly a section like the youth is another.

The present case of Agnipath scheme is again an example of the government announcing a scheme resulting in widespread agitation, unrest, violence, arson with trains and buses being set afire, primarily being carried out by youth in many parts of the country.

The country sometime back had suffered for months due to the agitation against the farm laws which had to be withdrawn by the government later.

Now following the eruption of anger of the youth against the new scheme in different parts of the country the government is coming out daily basis in Ministry after Ministry announcing how they will be re-recruiting the youth once they leave the armed forces.

But could not these decisions be incorporated in the scheme itself.  It would have definitely assuaged the disturbed youth and checked them from taking the agitational mode.

Why sufficient consultation was not done

The question needs to be asked why before announcing the scheme sufficient consultation was not done, particularly with the sections of youth in different parts of the country. If it was done as the government claims then how come their concerns were not addressed in the scheme itself?

How come there is so much miscommunication regarding the scheme that once it is announced, youth in different parts of the country go on rampage.

Everything cannot be blamed on the machinations of the opposition parties. If the government announces a half-baked scheme and causes unrest among the youth, the opposition is not going to laud the government but expose more loopholes in the scheme.

It is clearly upto the government to come out with a watertight scheme after having done sufficient consultation with all the stake holders so that once the scheme is announced it does not boomerang.

When over the years recruitments to the Defence services has been taking place, how come the government is completely ignorant of the demands, interests , questions, apprehensions of the youth who generally go in Defence services.

It seems the south block mandarins have just gone ahead with finalising a scheme without much of a feedback from the grass roots.

The Defence services know fully well from which areas in the country they get their maximum recruits and it is in those areas a fall out of the anger of the youth is being seen.

Could not the government predict this kind of a  potential outcome and what measures they could take to stop the conflagration to grow.

On the face of it, the Agnipath scheme which the government has declared will not be “rolled back” seems to be meant for completely transforming the profile of the Defence services with large scale induction of the youth between 17 and a half years and 21 years into the armed forces. Only 25 percent of them will be retained and 75 percent will be asked to leave the service after four years with a financial package .

Thus the Defence services hopes at one go to have a younger, sharper, technically savvy fighting force  which is the requirement of nation in the 21st century.

The immediate result of the protests was that the upper age limit of 21 years was raised to 23.

The youths are raising several issues pertaining to recruitment which must be listened to with lot of sympathy and understanding by the government.

One of the issue is that for the last two years recruitment in the services had been stopped where nearly 1.20 lakh people were to be absorbed (about 60,000 annually).

In the long run clearly the Indian Defence services (approximately 14 lakh personnel) will become much more leaner with 25 percent being retained and 75 percent of new recruits being asked to leave the service.

Actually  50,000 to 60,000 young soldiers are recruited annually keeping in view that nearly 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers who are retired from the services, which in a way kept the balance.

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic recruitments into Defence services has been virtually stopped for the last two years, while regular retirements continued.

While nearly 1.20 lakh youngsters were waiting desperately to get  into the Defence services during the  last two years,  comes the announcement of the new scheme of Agnipath.

Instead of giving 15 years of service in Defence services before one retires,  Agnipath asks 75 per cent of the recruits to leave in just four years.

There are many who had given exams and tests and were waiting for orders to join when this scheme was brought it.

Only 25 per cent selected recruits will be allowed to continue another 15 years under permanent commission.

Youth worried about future

Though it would definitely bring down colossal Defence pension bill but youngsters are very apprehensive about their future in Defence services.

Government feels that new technologies could be easily taught to a youthful armed force.

Agitating youth feel that if they are not selected for the permanent commission,  their future is not at all secure outside the Defence services, with just four year stint in Defence services.

The government’s argument is that the discipline,  skills, and experience acquired during the four-year service will qualify them for large number of sectors.

Clearly, the government wants to make a dent in the huge unemployment scenario in the country. However looking at the employment scenario of ex servicemen with less than 2 percent being able to get central government jobs despite nearly 24 percent quota due to over age and not having the requisite training in the Army required for the jobs outside, the youth are doubtful about their future.

There are no takers to the government’s argument that they will like to  plough back “skilled, disciplined and motivated manpower into the society.”

Agnipath scheme

The recruits into the Defence services after their selection will get training for six months and will then be deployed for three-and-a-half years.

The starting salary of the recruit will be Rs 30,000, which will go upto Rs 40,000.

Thirty percent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme with the government contributing an equal amount every month, and it will accrue interest. The soldier when leaving after four year will get tax free Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount.

They will also get a Rs 48-lakh life insurance cover for four years and in case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.

The scheme may have its merits. It may also be what the nation needs. But looking at its announcement and immediate explosive reaction of the youth , one can only say that proper homework was not done, stake-holders were not taken on board and a confrontationist scenario was allowed to be created.

The sad part is the government seems to have learnt nothing from the farmers agitation because despite the kisan agitation the BJP won in elections. How will the “jawan” agitation affect elections?

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