Agnipath Scheme: NSA Ajit Doval says funds saved on pensions needed to modernise forces

Doval was referring to one of the primary reasons the Armed Forces wish to adopt the new scheme, in order to bring down personnel costs such as salaries and pensions in order to divert a larger part of the defence budget into equipment acquisition and emergent technologies

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Tuesday, June 21, 2022, 01:35 PM IST
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NSA Ajit Doval speaks to media on the training of Agniveers under Agnipath scheme | ANI

On Tuesday, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval spoke to the media on the newly launched controversial Agnipath recruitment scheme, saying that the nature of modern warfare had changed fundamentally and that, "we are going toward contactless wars, and also going towards war against the invisible enemy. Technology is taking over at a rapid pace. If we have to prepare for tomorrow, then we have to change."

Doval was referring to one of the primary reasons the Armed Forces wish to adopt the new scheme, in order to bring down personnel costs such as salaries and pensions in order to divert a larger part of the defence budget into equipment acquisition and emergent technologies like drones, Electronic Warfare, Artificial Intelligence, modern C4ISR capabilities as well as cyber and space technology.

"Broadly speaking, they come under the four heads. It requires equipment, it requires change in systems and structures, it requires change in technology, it requires change in manpower, policies and they have to be futuristic," Doval said.

Doval underlined that change would be painful, stating that the Modi government had committed to make such painful changes for the overall long-term benefit of the nation.

"There's a need to look at it in a perspective. Agnipath isn't a standalone scheme in itself. When PM Modi came to power in 2014, one of his prime priorities was how to make India secure and strong. That required many avenues, many steps," the NSA said.

Doval also headed off criticism from many quarters, including former service members, who feared that reducing service terms to four years would lead to a dilution in the capabilities and professionalism of the Indian Armed Forces.

"Agniveers will never constitute the whole army. Those Agniveers who become regulars eventually will undergo intensive training, acquire experience over a period of time," the NSA pointed out.

Agnipath Scheme proves controversial

The Agnipath Scheme is a new scheme introduced by the Government of India on June 14, for recruitment of soldiers below the rank of commissioned officers into the three services of the armed forces.

The Agnipath Scheme will be the only route for recruitment into the military. All recruits will be hired only for a four year period. Personnel recruited under this system are to be called Agnivirs, which will be a new military rank.

The introduction of the scheme has been criticised for lack of consultation and public debate. The scheme is scheduled to be implemented from July 9.

This scheme will bypass many things including long tenures, pension and other benefits which were there in old system. Opposition parties have criticised and expressed concerns about the consequences of the new scheme. They have asked the scheme to be put on hold and that the scheme be discussed in the Parliament.

On June 16, violent protests erupted in several states in India where the army aspirants angry with the new scheme called for its rollback and damaged public property.

By June 17, 12 trains were set on fire, and the movement of 300 trains were affected. 214 trains were cancelled, 11 trains were diverted and 90 were terminated short of their destination.

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