The three military services on Tuesday said the Agnipath scheme will not entail any change in the existing system of recruitment of soldiers and will not at all impact their combat capabilities and operational readiness.
At a media briefing, additional secretary in the defence ministry’s department of military affairs Lt Gen Anil Puri addressed various issues raised about the new scheme, asserting it has not been brought to ”right-size” the armed forces but to lower their age-profile and enhance their overall capability.
Several parts of the country witnessed violent protests after the announcement of the new model that seeks to recruit youths between the age bracket of 17-and-half years to 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years. For 2022, the upper age limit has been extended to 23 years.
”There will be no change in the recruitment process. What happened five years ago, what happened earlier, the same will continue,” Lt Gen Puri said, adding those recruited under the scheme will be eligible for gallantry awards.
The scheme is being rolled out so that armed forces draw the best talents, he said, adding that Agnipath would add strength to the armed forces. Top officials of the three services announced a detailed schedule of the recruitment process, asserting that there will be no compromise on the quality of the training to be imparted to the ‘Agniveers’, though its duration would be compressed.
”The combat capabilities and readiness of the Indian Air Force are non-negotiable. The Indian Air Force and the government will do everything that is required to keep us combat-worthy and combat-ready,” Air Officer-in-Charge of Personnel Air Marshal S K Jha said.
He said there is ”absolutely no change” in the IAF’s process of induction, entry-level qualification, examination syllabus and medical standards for the recruits under the Agnipath scheme ”All the enrollments in the Indian Air Force will take place only through Agniveer Vayu,” he said.
Army’s Adjutant General Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa said the Army would induct women under the Agnipath scheme for induction as military police. He said the scheme will not dent but improve the Army’s combat capabilities.
Releasing the recruitment schedule, Lt Gen Ponappa said the online registration of the aspirants and announcement of the schedule of the recruitment rallies will commence on July 1.
He said the recruitment rallies will commence from the second week of August, the Combined Entrance Examination for the first batch of ‘Agniveers’ will be on October 16 and November 13 and they will report at the training centres on On December 22. The first batch will join their respective units on July 23.
The Combined Entrance Examination for the second batch will take place on January 23 and the recruits will report to training centres on February 23, he said, adding the army has launched an Agniveer helpline to address queries of the aspirants Sharing details of the IAF’s recruitment schedule, Air Marshal Jha said registration of candidates will be from Jun 24 to July 5 while the registration for the STAR examination (online) will be available between July 24 and 31.
The IAF would issue call letters to the provisionally selected candidates by August 10 and their medical tests would be conducted from August 29 to November 8.
Air Marshal Jha said the provisional selection list will be released on December 1, the enrolment list and call letters would be issued to successful candidates on December 11 and the course will commence on December 30.
About the Navy’s schedule, Vice Admiral (Personnel) Dinesh Tripathi said the details of registration process are going to be out on Wednesday and the online registration commences for all candidates on July 1, adding a detailed notification for the recruits will be published in July.
He said the application window would be available from July 15 to 30 and examination and physical fitness tests would be held in mid-October while the training process will commence on November 21.
Vice Admiral Tripathi said Agniveers will an get opportunity to join Merchant Navy following completing of their four-year tenure.
In the press briefing, Air Marshal Jha said ‘Agniveers’ are being inducted with a two percent intake in the first year and the number for the IAF would go to nearly 6,000 in the fifth year.
Lt Gen Puri said the recruitment under the scheme is a matter of national security and described as ”fake” information that old-timers of the Army will be recruited under the new model. ”No other country in the world has the demographic dividend as that of India. Fifty per cent of our youth is under the age group of 25 years. We should make the most of it,” Lt Gen Puri said.
He said the Agnipath scheme aims to ensure a youthful profile of the armed forces, bring technically adept people and make them future-ready to deal with any challenge facing the nation.
Lt Gen Puri said working for the army is a passion and a commitment and it is not an everyday job.
He noted that various committees including the Kargil Review Committee, Arun Singh Committee and Shekatkar Committee had recommended bringing down the age profile of the armed forces.
The additional secretary also said that there were detailed discussions on the scheme in the three services and the ministry of defence as well as under the whole-of-the-government approach.
He said the services held 150 meetings totalling 500 hours, the ministry had 60 meetings with a total duration of 150 hours while 44 meetings lasting 100 hours took place under the whole-of-government framework. Asked whether the Agnipath scheme is being brought to cut the number of soldiers in the army as suggested by various panels of experts to ”right-size” the force, Lt Gen Puri said the main aim is to bring a youthful profile of the armed forces.
Under the scheme, the Army plans to recruit 40,000 soldiers this year and the number is going to increase in the coming years.
Once 75 per cent of the recruits exit the force after the four-year tenure, around 10,000 Agniveers will continue to serve from the 2022 batch.
According to officials, around 50,000 army personnel retire from the Army every year.
Lt Gen Puri also said that ”credible” information on the ‘Agnipath’ scheme recently has dispelled misinformation about the initiative and asserted that youngsters preparing to become soldiers have returned to physical activities at several places.