Amid escalating protests and violence over the ‘Agnipath’ scheme which fundamentally revamped the recruitment of soldiers into the armed forces, Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on June 17 said that the one-time waiver, increasing the entry age of recruitment to 23 years for the first cycle, indicates that “the government cares for our youth.”
Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande told news agency ANI that training of first Agniveers will begin in December 2022 and active service will commence in the middle of 2023.
“The government has announced a one time upper age limit relaxation for the recruitment process through Agnipath scheme for 2022 to 23 years. The relaxation of age indicates that the government cares for our youth. Department of Military Affairs, MoD and Services are committed to commence the recruitment process at the earliest, we invite youth of our country to join Armed Forces and serve the nation through Agnipath,” Mr. Singh said in a message.
Speaking on the one-time age relaxation, Army Chief Gen. Manoj Pande said it will provide an opportunity for many youth who were preparing to join the recruitment rallies but were not held due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Late on Thursday evening, the government announced a decision to grant a one-time waiver, increasing the entry age of recruitment to 23 years, for the recruitment cycle of 2022 given that it was not possible to undertake recruitment during the last two years.
“This decision will provide an opportunity for many of our young, energetic and patriotic youth who, despite the COVID pandemic, were preparing to join the recruitment rallies, which couldn’t be completed in the last two years due to COVID restrictions,” Gen. Pande in a message released by the Army.
“The schedule of recruitment process will be announced shortly. We call upon our youth to avail this opportunity for joining the Indian Army as Agniveers,” he further added.
The one-time waiver for age relaxation would facilitate entry of those youth who could not join the Armed Forces — Army, Navy or Air Force — due to temporary stoppage of recruitment during the coronavirus pandemic, the Indian Navy said.
“The Indian Navy is ready to welcome the first batch of Agniveers in our service, for which the recruitment process will start very soon. We call upon all young men and women of our country to join the Indian Navy as Agniveers and contribute to National security and nation building,” the Navy said in a statement.
Amit Shah’s bid
Meanwhile, in an attempt to allay the concerns of the protesters, Union Home Minister Amit Shah said that the decision to increase the upper age limit for joining in defence services through Agnipath scheme will benefit a large number of youth.
"The recruitment process in the Army was affected due to the corona pandemic for the last two years, so Prime Minister Shri @narendramodi ji has taken a sensitive decision, showing concern for the youth, to give them two years concession in the age limit from 21 years to 23 years in the first year of Agnipath scheme," Shah said in a tweet in Hindi.
A large number of youth will benefit by this decision. Through the Agnipath scheme, they will move forward in the service to the country and their bright future, he said. "I thank @narendramodi ji," he added. The government increased the upper age limit for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme to 23 years from 21 years for 2022 for the enrolment of soldiers into Army, Navy and Air Force.