Amid widespread protests, the Union government on Thursday increased the upper age limit to 23 from 21 for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme for the year 2022.
“Cognisant of the fact that it has not been possible to undertake recruitment during the last two years, the government has decided that a one-time waiver shall be granted for the proposed recruitment cycle for 2022,” a Defence Ministry spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the upper age limit for the recruitment process under the Agnipath scheme for 2022 had been increased to 23.
Earlier in the day, government officials released a note on “myths and facts” regarding the scheme. The note said it was a myth that “21-year-olds are immature and unreliable” and at no point of time will there be more youth than experienced people among the ranks. The number of Agniveers to be recruited in the first year would only make up 3% of the armed forces. “No change is being done to the regimental system,” it said.
“The present scheme will only bring about a right mix of 50%-50%, slowly in a very long run, of youngsters and experienced supervisory ranks,” it said.
The note said it is a myth that “no consultation” was held with former armed forces officers before announcing the decision. It said extensive consultations with serving armed forces officers were held over the last two years.
“The proposal has been framed by the Department of Military Officers staffed by military officers. The department itself is a creation of this government. Many former officers have recognised the advantages of the scheme and welcomed it,” the note said.
It said that “such short term enlistment system exists in most countries and hence is already tested out and considered best practice for a youthful and agile army.” “Additionally, the performance of the Agniveers will be tested before re-induction in the Army after four years. Hence, the Army will get the tested and tried personnel for supervisory ranks,” it said.
The note claimed that it is a myth that “Agniveers will be a danger to society and join terrorists.”
It stated that “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 rest of their lives.” Even now thousands retire from armed forces with skills etc. but there have not been any instances of them joining the anti-national forces.”
It said the claim that the “future of Agniveers is insecure” is a myth and the fact remains that those wishing to be entrepreneurs will get a financial package and bank loans, a bridge course for further studies, priority in jobs in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and the State police and “several avenues are also being opened up for them in other sectors.”
The note claimed that the opportunities for youth will not decrease due to the scheme but on the other hand it will increase. “In the coming years, recruitment of Agniveers will be around triple the current recruitment in armed forces,” it said. The note said that it is a myth that regimental bonding will be affected, on the contrary it will be further accentuated because the best of Agniveers will be selected, further boosting cohesiveness of the unit.
A press release by the Education Ministry said the National Institute of Open Schooling is instituting a special programme in consultation with the defence authorities to enable Agniveers who have passed Class X to further their education and obtain a Class XII certificate by developing customised courses that are relevant to their area of service.
The Ministry of Defence on June 14 unveiled the Agnipath scheme, a pan India merit-based recruitment scheme for enrolling soldiers, airmen and sailors. Under the scheme, young persons will be provided an opportunity to serve in the armed forces as Agniveer for a period of 4-years, which included the training period. After completion of the four-year tenure, the scheme provides for retaining 25% of the recruits for regular service, based on organisational requirements and existing policies
Agniveers shall be recruited between the ages of 17.5 to 21. Candidates who are Class X and XII pass can apply for the recruitment process.
Joining the chorus of Chief Ministers of other BJP-ruled States, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Pushkar Singh Dhami on Thursday said the scheme was a good opportunity for the youths of the State where serving in the defence was a much sought after profession.
“Uttarakhand’s association with the armed forces is well known. The history of the country’s armed forces is full of the stories of the valour of soldiers from our State which is also called sainyabhoomi. Almost every family in Uttarakhand has someone in the armed forces. The Agnipath yojana is a good opportunity for the youth,” Mr. Dhami said.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said the Agnipath scheme will give a “new dimension” to the life of the youth. The Chief Minister also said soldiers recruited under the Central government’s Agnipath scheme would be given preference in recruitment in police and other services in the State.