Days after former Army chief General Manoj Naravane is reported to have expressed 'surprise' over the announcement of Agnipath scheme by the Central government, he defended the recruitment programme.
Speaking at Indian Institute of Technology Bombay's (IITB) annual TechFest festival, the retired general said that the short-term hiring scheme should be tried and given some time to establish itself. Former Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, who was also present at the event, joined him in supporting the new recruitment system.
Under Agnipath scheme, which was launched in June this year, recruits for all three wings of the military are initially hired for a four-year period, with only 25% of the hired personnel permanently retained in the services. The change in recruitment process prompted angry protests in various parts of the country, with aspirants demanding a rollback of the scheme.
In his soon-to-be memoirs, Naravane is reported to have written that while the scheme caught the Army by surprise, it was a 'bolt out of the blue' for the Navy and the Air force. He said that the scheme was vastly different from the 'tour of duty' programme that he had suggested for the Army.
However, responding to a question about the scheme by a student at a symposium at the institute, where former Naval chief Admiral Karambir Singh also spoke, Naravane said that any new scheme shouldn't be discounted without giving it a try first. “Human resources (HR) policies of any organisation always undergo changes. It is not that an HR system of hiring, promotion and release that will continue forever,” he said.
The former chief also pointed out that the period of service was earlier changed from a maximum of seven years to 15 years, making retirees eligible for a pension. “Even at that time, there was a hue and cry: How will we fight with an ageing army? Today, an exactly opposite argument is being thrown. That (system) has also worked and the new system will also work," he said.
Bhadauria added, “People who are wanting to stay long term after getting into Agnipath need to do well and they will come into a that bracket which will become permanent and for people who don't become permanent or don't want to become permanent at the end of their engagement period – because that is when you learn what army, navy or air force is all about – will have an option to leave and you will have necessary support from services and govt in many areas."