New Delhi: Asserting that there will be no rollback of the Agnipath scheme for recruitment into the defence forces despite the agitation by young aspirants, the department of military affairs (DMA) additional secretary Lt Gen. Anil Puri said on Sunday said that those protestors who will be named in FIRs for arson will not be able to join the military.
The DMA is the prime mover of the Agnipath scheme. Lt Gen. Puri said that the Agnipath scheme was brought to make the defence forces younger and more technology-oriented.
He said that the aspirants planning to join defence forces will have to give a certificate that they were not a part of the protest or vandalism. “If discipline is our basis, then there is no place for indiscipline. The aspirants will have to write a pledge in the enrolment form that they were not involved in arson. The police verification will be done. If an FIR is lodged, they simply can't join," he said during a joint press briefing with the officers from Indian Army, Indian Navy and Air Force.
"Coming to the rollback of the scheme, no. Why should it be rolled back? It is the only progressive step to making the country young," said Lt Gen. Puri.
He said around 17,600 people are taking premature retirement from the three services every year. "No one ever tried to ask them what they will do after retirement," he stated. He pointed that Agniveers would get the same allowance in areas like Siachen and other areas which are applicable to the regular soldiers.
Lt Gen. Puri that the idea of reducing the average age of the troops came up in 1984. However, he said, the average age jumped to 32 years against 30 years in 1984. He said that Agnipath would bring down the average age in the Army to 26 from 32 years. “Khuda (God) and nature gave us an opportunity in the form of Covid. We were trying it from 1984, "he said.
The joint press conference was held on a day when defence minister Rajnath Singh met the three service chiefs amid escalating protests against the Agnipath scheme in several parts of the country. This was Singh's second meeting with the Army, Navy and the Air Force cheifs for the second straight day on the issue. It is learnt that the focus of the deliberations was on pacifying the protesters.
Indian Air Force’s personnel in-charge Air Marshal Suraj Jha said that the registration process to recruit Agniveers into the IAF would start on June 24 and phase one of the online exam will commence on July 24. He said that training will start by December 30.
It was clarified that those who had cleared entrance exam but were waiting for their medicals would have to again reappear through the Agnipath scheme. These previous tests will not be considered.
Indian Navy’s Chief of Personnel Vice Admiral Dinesh Tripathi said that Indian Navy would be inducting women sailors through the Agnipath scheme.
"From November 21 this year, the first naval 'Agniveers' will start reaching the training establishment INS Chilka, Odisha. Both female and male Agniveers are allowed for this," he said.
Indian Army’s Adjutant General Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa said that Army will start holding rallies by middle of August and some 83 rallies will be held across the country. He said that 25,000 Agniveers will join in the first batch in first week of December for training and second batch will join in February 2023.
Lt Gen. Puri said that the Centre will start with the recruitment of 46,000 aspirants to 'analyse' the scheme.
"In next 4-5 years, our intake (of soldiers) will be 50,000-60,000 and will increase to 90,000-1 lakh subsequently. We've started small at 46,000 to analyse the scheme... and to build up infra capacity," said Lt Gen. Puri.
He said, "Our intake of 'Agniveers' will go up to 1.25 lakhs in near future and will not remain at 46,000 which is the present figure."