Press Trust of india

‘Agnipath’ to help services in long run, will make youngsters better citizens, say top commanders

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‘If a youngster from J&K joins military and stays for four years, he will leave as probably more of an Indian than a radical’

Srinagar: The Agnipath scheme is a transformational reform for the armed forces and the nation, and aims to bring paradigm changes in the human resources management of the Army, Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi said here on Wednesday.

Briefing reporters on the new recruitment scheme, the army commander said it offers opportunity to young people from across the country, driven by patriotic spirit, to serve in the Indian Armed Forces as ‘Agniveers’ for a short duration of four years.

India on Tuesday unveiled the scheme 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.

“On completion of the four year period, Agniveers will go to the society as a disciplined, dynamic, motivated and skilled work force for employment in other sectors, including corporate and industry, CAPFs (Central Armed Police Forces) and DPSUs (Defence Public Sector Undertakings) to pursue a career in jobs of their choice,” he said.

The scheme also aims to harness ‘Skill India’ initiative by enrolling candidates qualified in ITI or diploma with necessary skills for certain technical trades.

Agniveers will carry a unique resume which will be an asset to the society and the organisation they join after exiting the armed forces.

They will get Agniveer skill certificates, award of credits for facilitating higher education, financial package to start new enterprise and adequate skills to be absorbed in the market, he added.

For the army, Lt Gen Dwivedi said, the biggest takeaway is to enhance the youthful profile for organisational needs by reducing the average age profile of soldiers from 32 years to 26 years over a period of time, increase the technological threshold and optimise the duration of recruit training to ensure better availability of soldiers for active duties.

“We are banking on a youthful and fitter group of soldiers being led by the specially selected, best among the best leaders, who are motivated, well trained and technically adept, to deliver the results in a future conflict scenario,” he said.

He said the notification for recruitment in the army will be issued by next month.

Asked how the scheme would benefit the force in Jammu and Kashmir, the army commander said the northern front is a high altitude area and “the younger a soldier, the fitter will he be”.

“With age, the high altitude problems arise. So, this scheme is a good one. This will bring in new blood, new youngsters, and their freshness will create success in us,” he said.

He also said the scheme will attract young people and ensure that they do not tread the wrong path.

Meanwhile, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Command, Air Marshal Sreekumar Prabhakaran said it is premature to say whether the scheme will stop radicalisation of young people in Jammu and Kashmir, but asserted, “I am quite sure that if a youngster (from the union territory) joins the military under the scheme and stays with us for four years, he will leave as a different person and probably more of an Indian than a radical.”

“Only time will tell us about that but I am quite sure that if a youngster who has, as you said, got brainwashed (into terrorism), joins the services under the scheme and stays with us for four years, I am sure he will be a different person and probably more of an Indian than a radical as you brought out,” the air marshal told reporters.

Responding to a question on criticism for the scheme from different quarters, Prabhakaran said everybody has the right comment.

“When there is some change, there is always going to be some hiccups. The Agnipath scheme has not come out of the blue but there was a lot of discussion at the senior officers-level from the air force, navy and the army for about two years. The government supported the idea,” he said.

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