The Centre has announced the Agnipath scheme for recruitment of soldiers in the three branches of the armed forces, on a short-term basis.
Under the scheme, youth(both men and women) between 17.5 to 21 years of age will be enrolled on an ‘All-India All-Class’ basis as soldiers for four years. After violent protests throughout the country the government has decided to increase the age to 23 years
These recruits, who will be known as ‘Agniveers’, will form a distinct rank bearing a distinct insignia in the respective forces. They will not be eligible for any pensionary benefit under the scheme.
With this, the existing framework of employment for soldiers will cease to exist and those below officer rank — jawans in the Army, sailors in the Navy and airmen in Air Force — will be recruited into the three services through the Agnipath scheme.
The scheme does not apply to defence officers for whom there is a provision of short-term service called the Short Service Commission or SSC.
Features of the new scheme
Aimed at reducing salaries and pensionsto divert resources for military modernisation, the idea of a short-term recruitment model or ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD) was first mooted around two years back for the selection of officers and jawans, for a limited number of vacancies.
As part of the Agnipath scheme, selected candidates will be enrolled under the respective Service Acts for four years.
Those between the ages 17.5 and 21 yearswill be eligible to apply. Candidates below 18 years of age will have to get their enrolment forms signed by their parents or guardians.
The required educational qualification will be Class 10-12, depending on the service and assigned role.
There will, however, be no pension or gratuity benefitsfor these recruits.
Agniveers will contribute 30% of their salaries to a package called ‘Seva Nidhi’, and this amount will be matched by the government. This fund will accrue interest, and at the end of the four years, each soldier will get ₹11.71 lakh as alump sum tax-free amount.
The Agniveers will also be provided non-contributory life insurance coverof ₹48 lakh during their service in the armed forces. In case of death during service, the next of kin of the deceased Agniveer will get insurance money
In addition, Agniveers will get skill certificates, awards of credits so that they can study further, and a financial package to support future endeavours after their short-term military service.
After four years of service are completed, Agniveers will be eligible to apply for permanent enrolment in the armed forces. Up to 25% of them will be selected on an objective basis and enrolled as regular cadre.