Agnipath a pilot, tweaks if needed after 4-5 years: Army Vice Chief

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Lieutenant General B.S. Raju, Deputy Chief of Staff of the Army, said on Monday that Agnipat the recruitment scheme is “well thought out” and if any adjustments are required, they will be implemented after four to five years.

In an interview indian express On the day the Army issued a notice requiring all applicants to register online for Agnipath, Lieutenant General Raju said the scheme being rolled out is a “pilot project.” He said that Agnipath marks a “fundamental change” in military recruiting and everyone “needs to embrace this change.”

The VCOAS remarks come after violent protests against the Agnipath scheme in various parts of the country. The youth, who had been waiting since 2020 to join the force – a recruitment moratorium was put in place that year – were furious at the new scheme, which would only accept a limited number and would not guarantee permanent jobs, pensions and health. benefits for those leaving three services after four years.

“Hiring methodology, retention-renewal percentages, anything like that, if there is a need for customization, it will be done at the end of four to five years, as soon as we have reasonable data. Now we have a well-thought-out policy that we are implementing,” Raju said.

Asked why the armed forces had not carried out a pilot project that would have provided this data earlier, he said: “What we are doing is actually a pilot project … the speed at which this is happening, yes, it is considered a pilot project. project. Perhaps we wouldn’t call it a pilot project. But this, this is a work in progress. So what we’re doing is really kind of a pilot project, but with very tight deadlines. The government has repeatedly stated that they are amenable to modification based on our experience.”

He said he couldn’t predict exactly what could be changed. “Based on our experience, the necessary changes will be made within four to five years. (Change) can be on any front.”

Raju said changes to regiments would come “very slowly” and there were no plans to do away with homogenous units right away. “We are in no hurry to change anything in this direction,” he said, responding to criticism that the recruitment of “all India, all class” would undermine the cohesion of combat units, so far based on the uniformity of personnel.

He dismissed the suggestion that the flood of announcements following the announcement of the rehiring policy for former Agniveers employees is a 10 percent redundancy in the Central Police Force; 10% as part of the coast guard and law enforcement agencies; two years of relaxation in the upper age bar; the preference for Agniveers in the state police services was indicative that the policy was not well thought out.

“I disagree with your assertion that this (policy making) happens on the fly. Since the only change and announcement that has taken place is for the age from 21 to 23, all the rest are some suggestions that come from different institutions to give more strength to the program announced by the government to take care of 75 percent. people who will go out. So this is an addition to what the government has already thought (provided),” he said.

This includes a tax-exempt financial package of 11.71 lakh Seva Nidhi in addition to 11.72 lakh as his salary for four years. “So, a young guy who came at 18 comes back four years later with about Rs 24 lakh,” Raju said. The government also said the ex-Agniveer could take out a loan of 18 lakhs over three years using the Seva Nidhi package as collateral.

“So, after that, we thought – and we still believe – that he has a lot of possibilities on the outside. It is not intended to give him a pension after four years, but to make him a more capable boy. The more able ones stay in the system, the balance of people with a bunch of different kinds of skills, depending on whether he came into the infantry, into the EME, signalers, engineers, everyone came into the system, he gets a unique set of skills. So for these people, we said that this kind of money would give him a second option, a secondary option for any education – he goes from 10th grade to 12th grade (after four years). They also give him a multiple skills certificate according to the NSQ (National Skills Qualification) format. So, that puts it in place to move on to the next stage of life. And before (we thought) that was enough. Now on Wednesday came new feedback that he needed a government job. But that was not the goal, the goal was to educate him and put him in an environment where he will find many opportunities in front of him to become an entrepreneur himself,” Raju said in defense of the scheme.

Adoption will be slow, he noted, from 40,000 this year, the same in 2023, rising to 45,000 in 2024 and 50,000 in 2025.

“Therefore, the number of Agnivers that will enter the system will be very small. Along the way, if any adjustment is required, we will do it. So there are 880 people in the rifle battalion, in four years we will have 120 (Agnivers). So we can only have one or two people in a section. Such is the rate of change. In four years, 75 percent of the Agnivers will leave for the first time. So we have time to learn along the way and we will make the necessary changes,” he said.

Raju said the scheme was a “fundamental change” in recruiting. “So we all need to embrace change. It is to give (a young man) the opportunity to serve the nation for four years, to go out and do something else. It is not an end in itself,” he said.

Rejecting the accusation that this would turn the army into a high school for teaching 10th grade graduates skills, Raju said it was a “wrong” interpretation.

“It’s not that we’re going to give him extra training or extra skills that aren’t related to the job he’s doing. So, if we have an (Agniveer) EME boy who has to service cars. It is perceived as a skill, so eventually he wants to open his own workshop or can get a job as a supervisor in the workshop, these opportunities open up,” he said.

Raju said that a 50 percent limit on the number of Agnivers in the army would provide a balance. The remaining 50 percent will be “standing forces”, which will consist of 25 percent recruited from each four-year batch of Agniveer.

VCOAS said the number of Agniveer recruits could rise to 1.30 lakh per batch, meaning the 25 percent rehired would also increase proportionately.

He said that even if regiments become more diverse in 10 years, “whatever form it takes, we are very confident that it will still be a very effective fighting force.” He gave examples of the “mixed class” branches of the military that are currently in the army.

“Even inside the infantry, we have very good examples, whether it be a guards brigade, a Mahara regiment or a parachute battalion, a special forces battalion. They are all mixed thoroughly and they performed very well. Today we have reached the age of majority where we can walk with complete confidence that a diverse group of people can come together, unite and become excellent soldiers.”

“Another example is the Rashtriya Rifles (counter-insurgency force stationed at J&K). When the RR appeared 30 years ago, there were many fears – how this motley group of people from the Infantry, ASC, EME, Signalers would work together. Today RR is one of the best forces, they serve in the rebels and on the line of control, and Line of actual control. So we have great examples of people of this nature coming together,” he said.

Raju said that contrary to fears that “All India, All Class” recruiting would skew the number of recruits in favor of certain states, “the mandate of the changes that are taking place is that (recruitment) should spread throughout the country” and slowly transition from the current intensive density in selected areas to all parts of India.

“In areas with high enrollment density, there will be a gradual decline so that people from underrepresented states (will also be able to enter). But it also depends on whether these states can contribute. There is a possibility that we may go to a specific area where we do not have adequate representation, but we may not get an answer from there. So we will continue to take from places where there is already enough availability. So this little environmental management will be done,” he said.

He also said that concerns about rivalry between the Agniveers over who would stay and who should leave after four years were misplaced. “Competition is nothing new to the system. Having said that, we are also saying that the person who leaves gets a good foundation to start their second opportunity,” he said.

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