‘Agnipath’ recruitment should be in sync with holistic reforms

Touted as a historic reform in the recruitment policy for the armed forces, the new scheme, ‘Agnipath’, a short-term appointment of soldiers on a contractual basis unveiled by the BJP government at the Centre has met with stiff resistance. Protests against the scheme are spreading across India. Angry youths have indulged in violent protests, including arson. They are up in arms against this scheme. The BJP government has been caught off-guard. After the farmers’ protests, this one looks quite serious.
On a closure look, the scheme certainly will help in reducing the burgeoning defence pension burden and giving a more youthful look to the defence forces. However, there are certain concerns that need to be addressed to ensure its success. A key concern is that the length of the tenure and training period may not be sufficient to meet the operational and organisational needs of the defence forces. There are also concerns about the combat-readiness of the new recruits, their levels of motivation, and whether the prospect of a short tenure will make them risk-averse. Unless the government does the required handholding, there is going to be uncertainty regarding the future prospects of the military-trained young men and women when they return to the civilian population after four years of service.
Also, in a country like India, where people look for stability while entering any job, the four-year tenure might be too short. The recruitment changes, however lofty the intentions may be, must be in sync with holistic reforms flowing out of the national security strategy, to transform the armed forces, particularly with respect to optimisation of manpower and restructuring the organisation.