Agnipath Scheme: Assessment
Asia News Agency
The first batch of ‘Agniveers’ enrolled under the Agnipath Scheme commenced training at the various recruit training institutions of the Armed Forces last month. It will take a couple of years for the Armed Forces to crystallise the modifications required in the original scheme, writes Lt Gen Prakash Menon retd. (Director, Strategic Studies Programme, Takshashila Institution; former military adviser, National Security Council Secretariat).
Areas requiring higher focus
During this period, Menon says “two areas that would require a higher focus are the initial recruitment process and the recruit training.
"The Army has already changed the recruitment process for the second batch by making the online exam the first step of the process. It is followed by physical fitness/measurement and medical tests. Earlier, the written exam that was conducted physically was the last step. This change will certainly reduce the overall administrative burden.
“The Common Entrance Exam (CEE) will be followed by recruitment rallies for shortlisted candidates at locations decided by the Army Recruitment Offices (AROs). This is a major step towards Digital India though it took the Agnipath Scheme to give the recruitment reform a shot in the arm.”
Dilution of merit: The CEE being conducted at the all-India level however, “does not mean that the selection is based on all-India merit. The Army vacancies are still tied geographically to ratios based on Recruitable Male Population (RMP)…… Merit therefore, “is diluted…..”
Positive and promising feedback
The initial reports about Agniveers from the Army’s training centres, however, “seem positive and promising, especially in terms of what ultimately matters in military effectiveness — the human spirit.
The ball now lies in the court of the Armed Forces to mould the raw talent of those who are mostly there because they seek employment amidst the growing national ambience of unemployment. Retention is the goal and it should provide the motivation for better performance. Those who are not retained, leave with Rs 10 lakh capital that can seed entrepreneurship. It would be a challenge to find employment.”
And emphasises Menon “the Agnipath Scheme, with all its known negative aspects, offers the only hope of reducing the burgeoning pension outlay that is choking the defence budget as global geopolitical frictions are mounting. It must succeed even as it forgoes some of the advantages of a standing military. It must be a whole-of-government approach all the way.”