India unveiled a new scheme called 'Agnipath' on Tuesday, 14 June, for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, largely on a short-term contractual basis, with an aim to cut the ballooning salary and pensions bill.
The soldiers to be recruited under the scheme will be called "Agniveer."
In a statement, the government said, "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."
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh made the announcement of the new scheme at a media briefing, shortly after the Cabinet Committee on Security approved it.
"The Agnipath recruitment scheme is a transformative initiative that will provide a youthful profile to the armed forces. Under the Agnipath scheme, Indian youngsters will be provided an opportunity to serve in the armed forces as 'Agniveer'," Singh said.
During the announcement, Singh also said that the appointment of the Chief of Defence Staff – a position that was previously held by the late Bipin Rawat – will be made soon.
The revolutionary changes in the recruitment process will see the induction of the soldiers initially for a period of four years, and some of them would be retained.
What Does the Scheme Entail?
The Scheme allows the induction of about 45,000 people aged between 17.5 years and 21 years for a four-year tenure into the services. The recruitments are set to begin in the next 90 days, with the first batch getting ready by July 2023.
Moreover, the tenure will have a six-month training period, during which they will be paid Rs. 30,000-40,000 as a monthly salary as allowances. The candidates will also be allowed to avail insurance and medical benefits.
After completion of the four year tenure, only 1/4th soldiers will be retailed to join the regular cadre to go on and serve for a full 15 years in non-officer ranks.
“Upon the completion of four years of service, based on organisational requirement and policies promulgated by the Armed Forces from time-to-time, Agniveers will be offered an opportunity to apply for permanent enrolment in the Armed Forces,” a Press information Bureau release said.
“These applications will be considered in a centralised manner based on objective criteria including performance during their four-year engagement period and up to 25% of each specific batch of Agniveers will be enrolled in regular cadre of the Armed Forces,” the release added.
'Wider Talent Pool'
Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said the scheme would ensure a wider talent pool for recruitment in the armed forces.
The Agnipath scheme, earlier christened as "Tour of Duty," was launched in the presence of the chiefs of the three services.
The new scheme was announced after extensive deliberations on it over the last two years.
Currently, the army recruits young people under the short service commission for an initial tenure of 10 years, which is extendable up to 14 years.
The scheme is aimed at slashing the salary and pension bills of the three services, which have been increasing rapidly.
The defence budget of Rs 5,25,166 crore for 2022-23 included Rs 1,19,696 crore for defence pensions.
The allocation for revenue expenditure was Rs 2,33,000 crore. The revenue expenditure includes the expenses on payment of salaries and maintenance of establishments.
(With inputs from PTI.)