Amid continuing protests and violence surrounding the new Agnipath scheme for recruitment of soldiers into the armed forces, the Centre has offered a slew of support measures to accommodate Agniveers in various government departments after their four-year service.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved reservations for Agniveers for jobs under the ambit of the Defence Ministry and several other Union Ministries have also promised the same.
Mr. Singh on Saturday give his nod to a proposal to reserve 10% of the job vacancies in the Defence Ministry for the Agniveers meeting requisite eligibility criteria. “The 10% reservation will be implemented in the Coast Guard and defence civilian posts, and all the 16 Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSU). This reservation would be in addition to existing reservation for ex-servicemen,” the Defence Ministry said in a statement. The announcement was made after Mr. Singh chaired a meeting with the three service chiefs at his residence.
Necessary amendments to relevant recruitment rules will be undertaken to implement these provisions, the Ministry said adding, “DPSUs will be advised to make similar amendments to their respective recruitment rules. Necessary age relaxation provision will also be made.”
Home Ministry promise
On similar lines, the Ministry of Home Affairs too announced a decision to reserve jobs covering 10% vacancies in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and the Assam Rifles for Agniveers and also give three years age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit for recruitment in CAPFs and Assam Rifles. Further, this upper age relaxation has been extended to five years for the first batch of Agniveers, it stated.
“Also, by augmenting their skills, Agniveers will be a well-trained and highly disciplined youth force that can be harnessed for nation building and will be an asset to the society,” a government statement said.
However, the Congress has termed the Agnipath recruitment scheme “directionless”. While assuring the youth of her party’s support, Congress president Sonia Gandhi appealed to protesters to express their demands through non-violent means. “I am sad that the government has announced the scheme of new army recruitment ignoring your voice, which is completely directionless. Along with you, many ex-servicemen and defence experts have also raised questions on this plan,” Ms. Gandhi said in a statement that was released by Congress communication chief Jairam Ramesh.
Earlier in the day speaking at the TV9 global summit, Mr. Singh termed the Agnipath scheme as a “transformative reform” and noted that several government departments have announced priority in selecting Agniveers, upon completing of four years, for their recruitment processes and added that if Agniveers want to take up other work, they would also be given the facility of loans at a cheaper interest rates.
Mr. Singh also stated that Agniveers will be given the same quality training that soldiers are getting today. “Training time may be short but there will be no compromise in the quality,” he added.
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The Department of School Education and Literacy through its autonomous institution, the National Institute of Open Schooling, has announced that it will institute a special programme in consultation with defence authorities to enable those Agniveers who have passed Class 10 to further their education and obtain a Class 12 qualification by developing customised courses that are not only current but relevant to their area of service. This certificate is recognised for both employment and higher education purposes in the whole country, it said.
In addition, the Ministry of Education has decided to launch a three-year skill-based bachelor degree programme for serving defence personnel that will recognize the skill training received by them during their tenure in the defence establishments. “Under this programme that has been designed by IGNOU and will also be executed by them, 50% of the credits required for a graduate degree will come from the skill training — both technical and non-technical — received by the Agniveer, and the remaining 50% will come from a basket of courses,” it stated.
On Tuesday, the government announced the Agnipath scheme for recruitment of the youth in the armed forces for four years, after approval by the Union Cabinet and the age bracket for new recruits was fixed at 17 ½ to 21 years of age. This led to massive protests and violence across several states and late on Thursday evening, the Defence Ministry announced a one-time upper age limit relaxation for the recruitment process through Agnipath scheme for 2022-23, citing the fact that it was not possible to undertake recruitment during the last two years due to the pandemic.
Army chief General Manoj Pande had stated that training of the first Agniveers will begin in December 2022 and active service will commence in the middle of 2023. The government has said that the recruitment process will commence in 90 days and about 46,000 young men and women are to be taken in this year.
The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW) announced six service avenues for smooth transition of Agniveers in various roles of the merchant navy, post their stint with the Indian Navy. The scheme will enable Agniveers to acquire necessary training, with rich naval experience and professional certification to join the remunerative merchant navy across the world, the Ministry said in a statement.
Skill India and the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) will work collaboratively with various wings of the armed forces to train the students in additional skills to make them better suited for civilian jobs. “Agniveers will get Skill India certification while in service, which will enable them to pursue many diverse opportunities in entrepreneurship and job roles that are being created in our economy after completion of their tenure,” the government said.
In addition, several State governments have also announced that Agniveers, after serving the four-year term, will be given preference in filling of vacancies in State police forces. “The State police forces will greatly benefit from the training and discipline inculcated to Agniveers by the armed forces and their capabilities in tackling insurgency, naxalism and natural disasters will be hugely augmented,” the government statement added.