A new recruitment policy for troops in the Indian Armed forces, announced today by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, will allow women to be inducted and change composition of certain British-era regiments of the Indian Army which have youth only from specific castes.
The Minister, flanked by the three service chiefs, called it transformative at a press conference here. Recruitment of troops in the Indian Army has been suspended for two years and will re-start in 90 days from now.
Called Angipath scheme, the scheme will entail induction of troops into the Army, the Air Force and the Navy for a duration of four years as jawans, airmen and sailors, respectively. In the first phase, some 46,000 youth in the age group of 17.5 years to 21 years will be recruited for a period of four years in the three services. “The Agniveers (name for those recruited under the scheme) would form a distinct rank in the Armed Forces, different from any other existing ranks,” the Ministry of Defence stated.
Agiveer here is the package :
Those exiting after four years will have a job opportunity in several ministries, public sector undertakings and some states have also agreed to take them, Rajnath Singh said. He dismissed suggestions that the scheme was brought in to cut down on the ballooning pension bill saying, “We are ready to spend any money on the armed forces”.
After completion of four years of services only 25 per cent of those recruited can opt for full tenure. The retaining will be done through a scientific model and centrally-maintained data and will then go on to serve with all benefits that apply to existing troops.
Lt Gen Anil Puri, Additional Secretary of the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), said, “The present average age of troops is 32 years and we will bring it down to 26 years in few years. We will have savvy youthful forces and make troops future ready. The selection process will be transparent and will also be open to women.”
Those recruited under the ‘Angipath scheme’ will get a starting monthly salary of Rs 30,000 in the first year. It will go upto Rs 40,000 in the last year. The risk and hardship allowance will be separate at par with regular soldiers based on where they are posted.
The recruit will have a contributory severance package called the one time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package and after four years each de-mobilised trooper would receive around Rs 11.76 lakh with interest. All the earnings would be exempt from income tax. There shall be no entitlement to gratuity and pensionary benefits.
Recruits would also be provided with death and disability benefits under the scheme and this includes an insurance cover of Rs 1 crore to family in case of death.
“Angiveers will be deployed at all places where soldiers are deployed. There will be no comprise in operational capability,” said Army Chief General Manoj Pande.
Announcing the biggest change to the Army, Gen Puri said, “This will be All India merit- based selection.” In other words, this means the British-era recruiting system based on specific caste regiments will also go away. For now, Sikh regiment, Rajput Regiment, Maratha Regiment or Jat regiment would draw troops from these communities, respectively. In future, regiments could comprise inductees from all India and from all classes. In the past, boys have been recruited from the same gene-pool and from within specific geographical locations. In the older regiments, the system has been working for more than 150 years and in some cases even 200 years.
On being asked how the Army sees this, General Pande said 75 per cent of units are anyway ‘All India, All Class’ and only limited have class composition. The regimental system and class concepts are different concepts, he said, adding, “This will widen the recruitment base and provide equal opportunity to all, we will continue to draw strength of regimental bonds irrespective of the class… there will be no compromise on the ethos of Naam Namak Nishaan.” A regiment fights for its name and pride is the concept on which the Army is based.
“We expect these regiments (the ones with specific classes) to evolve from a class-based character into ‘All Indian, All Class’ structure,” the Army Chief added.
To explain, the class specific regiments like Sikhs, Rajputs, Jats or Maratha would be affected as these would see youth from other classes being inducted.
General Pande said the Agnipath scheme has been discussed with all stakeholders and it complements the ongoing modernisation. There will be no change in minimum physical character to be recruited, he said.
Air Force Chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said it has been discussed within the IAF that the youth leaving after four years will be job-ready.
Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said, “We needed to change with time. Agniveers will be posted on front line warships and submarines.”
During this period of service to the nation, the Agniveers will be imparted with various military skills and experience, discipline, physical fitness, leadership qualities, courage and patriotism.