THE MODI GOVERNMENT PROGRAM IS HIGH ON VOLUME, LOW ON CONTENT
Dr. Yugal Rayalu
Military recruiting drives are “holiday seasons” in some northern Indian states. The village elders bless the young people who are going to take the tests. The women sent the sons (now also the daughters) with tilak and their best wishes. In some families, it is the third or fourth generation who now aspire to the “Vardi” (coveted uniform). “Fauj” (military) is almost like their second religion. Many Bollywood films reflect these sentiments. The army men brought not only honor to their villages, but also prosperity and development. A somewhat similar culture prevails in some of the southern regions from where regular recruitment for the army takes place.
All this has changed with the recent decision of the NDA government to completely change the form of recruitment of soldiers to the three wings of the Armed Forces of India. Like all of their programs, this program is also high in volume and low in content. The new pattern is called ‘Agnipath’ the path of fire! The name comes from Hindu philosophy which means a difficult but sacred path. And the young recruits who would pass by this path will be called, “Agniveer”, the soldier of fire! This is the specialty of a propagandist government; whatever you do, talk a lot about it!
For decades, soldiers have been recruited from the towns and villages of this great country. Our soldiers have rendered their best service to the motherland with their exemplary sacrifices and highest levels of bravery! Yet, in all simplicity, they were all simply called Citizens of the Country. And a grateful nation cared for these brave sons and their families to the end. The families of martyrs (soldiers) were supported by the state with pensions and medical facilities. We all lived like one big family. Not now!
The Modi government has categorically said no to Agniveers retirement! Like all their privatization projects, the BJP says a big no to the “welfare of soldiers or their families”. Stand up for yourself is the new mantra of the new government.
An army does not win by force of arms alone. If this had been the case, all the armies of the world would be the same in terms of the effectiveness of their operations. But then the army wins a battle thanks to the commitment and level of motivation of its soldiers. This comes after a long, tireless training of new recruits that has lasted for more than two years.
As the Agnipath program is only for four years in the first stage, many experts are concerned about levels of motivation and commitment in the absence of proper training. Lieutenant General DS Hooda (Retired) expressed his concern in an interview with ‘The Hindu’ (24 June 2022). He said: “…People who only enlist for four years and who perhaps see the military as a stepping stone to a future career will have the same level of morale and motivation that you find among soldiers. who are permanently in the army? ”.
Earlier, young people joined the army for life. The whole family would become a military family. Solidly supported by the social apparatus of the military establishment, the brave soldiers would not hesitate for a moment to put their lives at the service of the fatherland. This has brought a high level of commitment and professionalism in the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force. The country took care of the soldiers and the soldiers gave their best to the nation.
The Agnipath program is like a four-year contract. Some retired officers have estimated that it takes four or five years for people to be trusted on the systems. For about four years, new recruits are under the regular supervision and guidance of a senior battalion or command official.
Unfortunately, in the Agnipath scheme, by the time an Airman completes their apprenticeship, it would be time for 75% of them to say goodbye. A lot of talent would be wasted. And also, a lot of money. So at all times, most soldiers in the army, navy, or air force would be believed. What will happen to combat compatibility? This is an untested question regarding the new scheme called Agnipath.
It would be shocking to many to know that the Agniveers will form a separate group in the military with a different insignia on their uniforms for all four years. Only those retained (25%) beyond the four-year period of the Agnipath program would receive regular Army/Navy/Air Force insignia. This type of demarcation has never happened in the Indian army, which has always stood for the principles of equality, overcoming the barriers of religion and caste language. This kind of demarcation between Agniveers and regular military personnel could be demoralizing. Much work needs to be done to undo the impact of such a demarcation. Experts are divided on the impact of such an arrangement.
Another area of concern is the period after the completion of four years. Three-quarters of the force would leave (no retreat, it’s entrenchment) with a certain amount in hand. No pension, no social support and no identity. Very soon the allure of the military would fade and there would be a shortage of competent and healthy men and women in our armed forces.
The BJP spokesperson, despite his best efforts, could not hide the true intent of the scheme. From time to time they continue to spread the beans. All those (75%) who would be discharged after four years in the force, would be given priority in the private sector security services. Thus, the real beneficiaries of the Agnipath scheme would be the corporate sector who would obtain trained security personnel for their businesses at taxpayer expense. Without spending a single rupee, businesses friendly to the current government would get qualified and trained guards for their doors!
It has been reported that members of RSS shakhas are motivated to join Agnipath Scheme in large numbers. It would kill two birds with one stone. First, it would send the signal that the young people have accepted the program, showing complete faith in the designs of Narendra Modi and his government. Second, the RSS would be able to establish deep relationships with all three wings of the Indian Army. The second could have alarming consequences. Until the arrival of the Modi regime, our army was politically neutral. The armed force had allegiance only to the fatherland. The BJP government changed all that. Today, generals also speak the language of the ruling party. It’s dangerous!
Sociologists believe that long-term employment brings peace and prosperity to a society. The best way to minimize crime in society is to educate and employ all young people in society. Meaningful and focused long-term engagement dramatically reduces crime. Previously, when a soldier retired after 15 or 20 years of service, he had a solid foundation for the development of his family and his children. While the pension took care of the basic needs of the family, the social support of the army took care of his children and his parents. The former soldier would lead a dignified life in society and become a role model for the new generation.
Sociologists’ greatest concern about the post-Agnipath scenario is that large numbers of young people trained in arms would enter society without any guarantee of a dignified life. The path they choose will depend very much on the socio-political situation at the time.
The pressure of a jobless existence could easily shatter the fabrics of social ethos and morality. Add to that the capacity of the weapon. Assured of a dignified life after retirement, former servicemen rarely fight. Guns, never. They usually stay out of trouble. Social assistance removes all tension from them. But then the Agnipath is an entirely different scheme. There are no post-employment benefits. In fact, there is no retirement. It’s just a “goodbye” without benefits. The money that is advertised is actually a deduction from the Agniveer’s salary. It is its own money to which the government will add its contribution. Every month, Rs 9000 is deducted from the salary and the government would contribute an equal amount.
A young man who earns Rs 11 Lakhs at the age of twenty-five without any proper planning is actually a big risk to the ex-serviceman and society. Added to this is the fact of the malleability of his character in the absence of appropriate guidance. The only guarantee against such a misadventure is the immediate employment of all these former soldiers. The former head of the Indian Navy, Admiral Arun Prakash, rightly asked the industrialists to provide the figures of employment provided by them to veterans in recent years. Few industrialists were shouting from their rooftops that they would absorb most of the 75% Agniveers after four years.
The wise always listen to the best advice, goes an old saying. This is very relevant in the case of the Agnipath scheme. While India is facing acute unemployment, the Indian army could have raised some hopes. Killing even those hopes is almost betraying the younger generation. The Indian army has always done its best under all circumstances because the nation and the society respected the men and women of the army. Today, that respect and support is being snatched away by a few short-sighted politicians and economists who support business. This could harm the nation’s long-term interests. When the results of this unbalanced model arrive, it will be too late. There will be no way back. The scars would remain. Agnipath is a road to nowhere! (API)