Terming Agnipath the “only progressive step” to make the Army younger, a senior military officer on Sunday ruled out any rollback of the scheme, and said those applying for it should give an undertaking that they did not take part in protests that broke out after its announcement. The three Services announced the recruitment schedule for the first batch of Agniveers with training set to commence by 2022-end.
“There is no space for indiscipline in the armed forces. No space for arson and vandalism. Every individual who aspires to join Agnipath has to give an undertaking and pledge that they have not taken part in any protest or arson… There will be police verification after that. No one can come into the armed forces without police verification,” Lieutenant-General Anil Puri, Additional Secretary in the Department of Military Affairs, said at a tri-service press conference after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh met the three Service chiefs for the second consecutive day.
Lt. Gen. Puri said efforts to bring down the average age of the armed forces first came about three decades ago. The Kargil review committee had reiterated the need for a reduction in age, but it did not come about. With Agnipath, he said, the average age will come down from 32 to 26 in line with the age profile of major Armies worldwide.
Stressing that future wars will be technology driven and hence a younger profile is required, he said there had been no opportunity in 30 years to undertake this transformative reform. Noting that recruitment was not held for two years due to the pandemic, he said “God and nature” gave us this opportunity to build a younger Army.
Whether “god heard or nature heard, we got this golden opportunity”, he said. The forces had been waiting since 1984 to reduce the age profile, he said.
On Agniveers, he said their allowances would be the same as what regular soldiers drew. There would be no discrimination.
Air Marshal S.K. Jha, Air Officer in-charge, Personnel, said the notification and registration process for enrolment of the first batch would go live online from June 24 through the online system of the Indian Air Force. “From July 24, an online examination will start and by end December, we will enrol the first batch and December 30, the training will commence,” he said.
The Navy’s Chief of Personnel, Vice-Admiral Dinesh K. Tripathi, said the force had already started working on the process and the advertisement would reach the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting by June 25 and the process would start within one month.
“By November 21 the first batch of Agniveers will report at our training centre INS Chilka. The Agniveers will be gender neutral. Women will also be inducted,” he said.
Of the 3,000 Agniveers to be inducted by the Navy this year, there will be some women, Vice Adm. Tripathi said and added. “We are working out the numbers based on the number of ships they can be accommodated and the facilities in training establishments.”
The Navy already has women officers serving on aircraft and onboard warships, he noted.
The Navy is looking at recruiting upto 600 women Agniveers depending on the modalities they would be posted on warships as well, it has been learnt.
For the Army, the terms and conditions and eligibility criteria have already been put up on the Army website, said Lt. Gen. C.B. Ponnappa, Adjutant General of Army. “On July 1, we will have notification from all recruitment offices. The first rallies will start in first week on August to November. In two batches induction will be done into training centres,” he explained.
The Army which plans to induct 40,000 Agniveers in the first batch will recruit around 25,000 Agniveers in first batch by first half of December and remaining in the second batch by first half of February 2023. For this, 83 rallies planned across the country covering all states, Lt Gen Ponnappa added.
Officials also explained that the intake of Agniveers would be progressively increased in the next few years. Intake of recruits under Agnipath will increase from 46,000 annually in the first 4 years, to 90,000 in the 5th year to 125,000 from the 6th year.
On June 14, the Government announced the “Agnipath” scheme for recruitment of soldiers into the armed forces for four years doing away with the current process 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 in the recruitment process through Agnipath scheme for 2022 to 23 years citing the fact that it was not possible to undertake recruitment during the last two years due to the pandemic.
All recruitment in the forces for soldiers, sailors and airmen will now be through this route. Agniveers on completion of four years will get an opportunity to join regular cadre and upto 25% would be selected through another recruitment process.
In the last few days several Ministries and Government departments announced measures to accommodate Agniveers in various avenues post the four stint, amid violent protests by youth across the country against the new scheme.