Army’s regimental system won’t change, claims Centre amid swirl of protests

Under the scheme, the youth between the ages 17 and 21 will be admitted into the three services

Protests against the new scheme seen in many parts of the country

There is hardly any change being done to the Army’s regimental system under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, said government sources.

The number of personnel to be recruited in the first year of its rollout would only make up three per cent of the Armed Forces, government sources informed on Thursday, amid wide-spread protest against the new model in several parts of the country.

The scheme is aimed at increasing opportunities for youth to serve in the armed forces and the recruitment of the personnel under it will be three times more than the current enrollment in the armed forces, the source said.

The government on Tuesday unveiled the scheme for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy and the Air Force, largely on a four-year short-term contractual basis in a major overhaul of the decades-old selection process.

Under the Scheme, youth between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 years will be admitted into the three services. After completion of the four-year tenure, the scheme will provide for retaining 25 per cent of the recruits for regular service.

The personnel to be inducted under the scheme will be called ‘Agniveers’, sources informed.

Several states have witnessed protests against the new scheme. A number of opposition political parties and military experts have also slammed the scheme, saying it will adversely impact the functioning of the armed forces.

There were apprehensions around the scheme that it would change the composition of several regiments that recruit youth from specific regions as well as castes such as the Rajputs, the Jats and the Sikhs.

“No change is being done to the regimental system. In fact, it will be further accentuated because the best of Agniveers will be selected, further boosting cohesiveness of the units,” said a source in response.

On the criticism that the short-duration tenure of Agniveers will harm the effectiveness of the functioning of armed forces, the sources said that such a system exists in several countries, and hence, it is already “tested out and considered best practice for any agile army.

The numbers of Agniveers to be recruited in the first year would only make up three per cent of the armed forces, they said, adding their performance will be tested before re-induction into the army after four years.

“Hence Army will get tested and tried personnel for supervisory ranks,” said the source cited above.

The sources said that most armies across the world depend upon their youth. This new scheme will only bring about a right mix of “50 per cent-50 per cent”  of youngsters and experienced personnel in the supervisory ranks.

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The sources said the scheme had been launched following extensive consultations with serving armed forces officers in the last two years.

The proposal has been framed by the Department of Military Officers staffed by military officers, they further said. The sources also contradicted the criticism that Agniveers could be a danger to society after their exit from the armed forces.

“This is an insult to the ethos and values of the Indian armed forces. Youngsters who have worn the uniform for four years will remain committed to the country for the rest of their lives,” claimed the source.

“Even now thousands retire from armed forces with skills, but there have not been any instances of them joining anti-national forces,” the source further said.