Agnipath scheme under review after NDA allies raise concerns

As the National Democratic Alliance's allies aired their grievances over the appointment of Agniveers under the Agnipath scheme, the Centre has expressed its willingness to address the "lacunae" and also promised to make amends in the short-term recruitment to the Armed Forces.
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As the National Democratic Alliance's allies aired their grievances over the appointment of Agniveers under the Agnipath scheme, the Centre has expressed its willingness to address the "lacunae" and also promised to make amends in the short-term recruitment to the Armed Forces.

It is now learnt that the BJP-led NDA government has formed a panel of secretaries, from at least 10 ministries to review the scheme and also to deliberate on how to make it more lucrative and rewarding for the young recruits.

The group of secretaries is expected to give their recommendations on making the short-term recruitment programme under Agnipath scheme, more attractive.

The scheme became a key election issue in the poll campaign with Opposition parties vowing to revoke it, if voted to power.

The panel of secretaries is expected to give a final presentation to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, after he returns from the G7 Summit in Italy. A detailed presentation may be made before the Prime Minister on June 17 or 18, sources said.

The committee may suggest tweaks in the recruitment process and recommend additional monetary benefits for the Agniveers, currently selected for a four-year period.

The Indian Army is also believed to be conducting an internal assessment of the scheme and is likely to submit its report before the government.

As per those privy to assessment, the Army is likely to suggest certain tweaks which include enhancing the training period for Agniveer recruits and also their retention percentage in the Armed forces. It may recommend retaining about 60-70 per cent of Agniveers, as against the existing 25 per cent.

Prime Minister's Office is likely to take a final call on the changes after taking into account all the recommendations and feedback from all stakeholders.

The review of the Agnipath scheme is also included in the first 100-day agenda of the Modi government and therefore one can expect "necessary amends" in the scheme in the near future.

The Agnipath scheme was implemented in June 2022 to reduce the pension bill of the Armed Forces and create a downsized but more lean and robust Army. However, it drew strong protests from Opposition parties who accused the Centre of shortchanging the youth and playing with their future.

The scheme soon after its rollout drew strong protests in many states, particularly in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan. It also became a focal point during the election campaign as many parties rebuked the Centre over what it called a flawed and disoriented policy in times of economic uncertainty.

Ahead of government formation, the allies of the BJP, including JD(U) and LJP (Ram Vilas), expressed apprehensions over Agniveers' appointment and urged the government to review it.

Under the scheme, youth are inducted into all three branches of the Armed Forces, including Army, Navy and Air Force for four years. Out of all the recruits, 25 per cent of them are given a chance to continue for another 15 years under a permanent commission.

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