Several defence coaching institutes in Kerala have issued advertisements stating that those who have participated in protests against the Agnipath scheme will not be eligible to enrol in these centres.
This has come at a time when the controversial Agnipath scheme, introduced by the Union Government for short-term recruitments to the armed forces, has ignited protests from Defence services aspirants.
As The Quint reached out to institutes in Kozhikode, Malappuram, Ernakulam, and Kochi, authorities confirmed that staying away from protests against Agnipath scheme is a prerequisite to join their coaching centres.
‘Protesters Not the Right Candidates for Army'
The decision of Kerala coaching centres are in line with the Defence Ministry's announcement made on Sunday, 19 June. The ministry had announced that those involved in any kind of violent protests and arson will not be admitted to the Agnipath programme.
“Indian Army's foundation is discipline. There is no space for arson and vandalism. Every individual will have to give a certificate that they were not part of the protest or vandalism at the time of enrolment. Police verification is 100 percent and no one can join the forces without it.”Lieutenant General Anil Puri, Additional Secretary, Department of Military Affairs.
Navaz Jan, retired Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) of the Indian Army who is also the administrator of the Pre-Recruitment Training Centre in Calicut clarified why his institute decided not to take in Agnipath protesters.
“Many aspirants and some people posing to be aspirants have been creating chaos and committing arson across the country. If anyone is found to have disrupted peace, then he will not be accepted into the army. It won't matter if he has cleared the exam or passed the medical tests. We can't have an indisciplined force,” Jan said.
A Ramesh, 17, has been dreaming of joining the Indian Army since he was a child. He told The Quint that he was appalled by the disclaimer released by the coaching institutes.
“Kerala is a state where people have always had the right to speak up. No matter who is ruling at the state or Centre, the youth here have had the freedom to protest and this has helped democracy. But now you are saying we don’t have that fundamental right."A Ramesh, Army Aspirant
However, another coaching institute administrator explained his institution's standpoint: “They (protesters) are going to get disqualified by the Army anyway so why waste a seat on such a student?"
Retired JCO Navaz Jan who was also an instructor in the Army Clerks Training School of the Rajput Regiment said:
“Becoming a member of the armed forces is not the same as joining a trade union. The country's integrity and security are in the hands of the soldier. He should not take part in a revolution. A person who is in the habit of involving in protest or disobeying lawful orders is not the right candidate to join the Army. You must be ready to sacrifice many of your personal ideologies and live a disciplined life.”
'Enquiries Have Increased Since Scheme Was Announced
More than 200 centres in Kerala have launched a new module for aspirants of Agnipath scheme.
According to the Army statistics, the average intake into the army is 37 personnel for every 10 lakh people. For Kerala the number is 36, depicting significant representation, reported OnManorama.
The training for the first 'Agniveers' (those enrolled in Agnipath scheme) selected will begin in December and their active service will commence mid-2023. So, training institutes have announced that classes will start from 25 June.
“We will have several batches with each one having over 50 students. Usually, we don’t get booked out so quick but this time, looking at the response, we are planning to increase the number of students we take in,” said the administrator of a Kozhikode-based coaching centre.
“Many people are under the impression that since Anipath is a recruitment for only four years, anyone can join the Army. The misunderstanding is that you don't need to train diligently but that is not the case. The standards are always the same,” Jan added.
Meanwhile, around 1,000 army aspirants who have cleared medical and physical tests gathered at Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, on 20 May, demanding that the Centre conduct Combined Entrance Examination (CEE) to recruit soldiers. The group's protest was against the newly introduced Agnipath scheme.