Defence minister Rajnath Singh and chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force on Tuesday announced new recruitment scheme for the defence forces called Agnipath Scheme under which youths from the age of 17.5 years to 21 years will be recruited for the period of four years. They will be called ‘Agniveers’.
“This is a major defence policy reform introduced by the Government to usher in a new era in the Human Resource policy of the three services. The policy, which comes into immediate effect, will hereafter govern the enrolment for the three services,” the government said in a statement.
The proposal which was approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday morning will recruit around 45,000 to 50,000 personals annually.
“Under the scheme, most Indian soldiers will leave the service in just four years. Only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission,” the statement added.
The move will considerably reduce the defence pension bill, which has been a major concern for governments for many years.
Announcing the scheme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said “efforts are being made that the profile of the Armed Forces should be as youthful as the wider Indian population.” A youthful armed forces will allow to be easily trained for new technologies.
The minister added that it will increase employment opportunities and because of the skills and experience acquired during the four-year service such soldiers will get employment in various fields.
“This will also lead to availability of a higher-skilled workforce to the economy which will be helpful in productivity gain and overall GDP growth,” Singh said.
The average age in the forces is 32 years today, which will go down to 26 in six to seven years. It will create “future-ready” soldiers, said Lt Gen Anil Puri, additional secretary, Department of Military Affairs.
The recruitment standards for the Agnipath scheme will remain the same, and recruitment will be done twice a year through rallies.
Once selected, the aspirants will go through training for six months and then will be deployed for three and a half years. During this period, they will get a starting salary of Rs 30,000, along with additional benefits which will go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the four-year service.
During this period, 30 per cent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month, and it will also accrue interest. At the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get Rs 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free. They will also get a Rs 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years. In case of death, the payout will be over Rs 1 crore, including pay for the unserved tenure.
Lt Gen Puri said the government will help rehabilitate soldiers who leave the services after four years. There will be a “whole of government” approach, and they will be provided with skill certificates and bridge courses. The impetus will be to create entrepreneurs, he added.
(With PTI inputs)