It is the usual suspect again. National interest. Almost akin to a terse ‘nothing doing, do what you want’. But will that quieten the now-muted opposition to the Agnipath Scheme is the million dollar question.
With the scheme already having taken off and no major hiccup experienced yet, the likelihood is strong that an epitaph may well be written for the opposition to the undoubtedly radical measure.
Batting vehemently for the Agnipath Scheme to recruit soldiers to the Indian Army, Navy and Air Force, the Delhi High Court on Monday dismissed a slew of petitions filed against the scheme on the prime ground that to continue with the scheme would be in the national interest and also to ensure that the armed forces are better equipped.
Passing the judgement, the two-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad, said: “The scheme is made in the national interest and to ensure that armed forces are better equipped.”
The bench also said there was no reason to interfere with the current Agnipath recruitment scheme.
Aimed at mega reform and touted as one of the most radical measures in the history of India’s armed forces, the Agnipath scheme has its fair share of aye-sayers and nay-sayers.
While there is a sense that the measure is being rammed through despite being discussed, deliberated and debated for about two years at various echelons of the government and among stakeholders, there are certain justifiable grounds for which it has been initiated.
The need for a tech-savvy body of young, modern warriors, one that is right-sized with the right ‘tooth-to-tail’ ratio being among the declared aims, while, the need to curb the ballooning and disproportionate salary and pension bill are, among the openly unspoken ones, form the core of the debate.
Borrowed from the ‘best practices’ of the recruitment process of many modern militaries abroad, the Agnipath Scheme seeks to marry experience with youth for employing personnel below officer rank (PBOR).
In one stroke, the scheme brings down the average age profile of the Indian soldier from 32 to 26 years, shaving off six years.
After six months of training, the Agniveers will be in service for the next three-and-a-half years. On completion of four years, one-fourth or 25 per cent of the Agniveers will be re-employed for 15 more years based on merit, their intent and the organizational requirement.
The remaining three-fourths or 75 per cent would be adequately compensated with an attractive retirement package called ‘Seva Nidhi’.
But several concerns remain. And rightly so.
Will Agnipath lead to the creation of a military that is under-trained, poorly motivated and inefficient? In the peculiar socio-economic-cultural geographical expanse that is India, will Agnipath unleash forces that may ‘militarize’ society and contribute to fissiparous tendencies? There will be many waiting for a detailed copy of the court order.