No rollback of Agnipath scheme; 3 services come out with broad schedule for recruitment

NEW DELHI, 19 Jun: Ruling out the rollback of the Agnipath recruitment scheme despite widespread protests, the three services of the military on Sunday came out with a broad schedule of enrolment under the new policy and asserted that it is aimed at bringing down the age profile of the armed forces.

Lt Gen Anil Puri, the additional secretary in the department of military affairs, told a press conference that the supportive measures announced in the last few days for the ‘agniveers’ were not because of the protests and arson, and the government is already working on them.

He said the youths who were involved in arson and violence while protesting the scheme will not be able to join

the three services as a police verification process will be carried out before enrolling anyone.

“There is no space for indiscipline in the armed forces. There is no space for arson and violence. All those who want to become a part of the armed forces under the Agnipath scheme will have to give a certificate that they were not part of any arson,” he said.

To a question on whether the government is reviewing or rolling back the scheme because of the protests, Lt Gen Puri said, “No, why should there be a rollback?”

The tri-services media briefing at the defence ministry took place hours after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting with the chiefs of the army, navy and the Air Force on Sunday for the second straight day.

Lt Gen Puri said the major reform in the armed forces to bring down their age profile has been introduced after years of deliberations and studying the recruitment process and tenure of soldiers in several countries.

He added that even a high-level committee on the 1999 Kargil war had made suggestions on it.

Giving details of the navy’s plan to induct ‘agniveers’ under the scheme, Vice Admiral (Personnel) Dinesh Tripathi said that the naval headquarters will come out with a broad guideline for the recruitment by 25 June.

The first batch of recruits will join the training programme on INS Chilka in Odisha by 21 November, he said, adding that the navy is recruiting both men and women as ‘agniveers’ under the scheme.

About the Indian Air Force’s plan for induction under the Agnipath scheme, Air Marshall SK Jha said that the registration process will start on 24 June and the process for online examination for phase one of the recruitment process will begin on 24 July.

“We are planning to start the training for the first batch of recruits by 30 December,” Air Marshall Jha said.

About the army’s recruitment plan, Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa said that the army will issue a draft notification on Monday and subsequent notifications will be issued by various recruitment units of the force from 1 July onwards.

Recruitment rallies under the Agnipath scheme will take place across India in August, September and October, he said.

Lt Gen Ponappa said that the first batch, comprising 25,000 personnel, will join the training programme in the first and second week of December. The second lot of recruits will join their training around 23 February.

He said that a total of 83 recruitment rallies will be organised across the country to select around 40,000 personnel.

Referring to the provision of exit of 75 percent of the ‘agniveers’ after a four-year tenure, Lt Gen Puri said that around 17,600 personnel take premature retirement annually from the three services.

“It is not that exit will take place only under Agnipath scheme,” he said.

Unveiling the scheme on Tuesday, the government said that youths between the ages of 17 and-a-half and 21 years would be inducted for a four-year tenure, while 25 percent of them will be subsequently inducted for regular service.

The youths to be recruited under the new scheme would be called ‘agniveer’.

In an attempt to pacify the protesters, the government on Thursday night increased the upper age limit for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme to 23 years from 21 for the year 2022.

The announcement of the new scheme came against the backdrop of recruitment into the military remaining stalled for over two years. The army recruits 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers annually. However, the recruitment could not take place for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic. (PTI)