Saving money to skilling soldiers: Agnipath's bold battle plan for military - Broadsword by Ajai Shukla - Strategy. Economics. Defence.

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Tuesday 21 June 2022

Saving money to skilling soldiers: Agnipath's bold battle plan for military

A key element of Agnipath service model is that only 25% of each batch, which has been chosen to remain in service, goes on to eventually draw a pension


By Ajai Shukla

Business Standard, 21 Jun 22


Frustrated job-seekers are rioting in the streets over the government’s announcement of the Agnipath Yojana. This “transformative” measure, imposed by the government without warning, is intended to change the recruitment pattern of soldiers from the current long-service, 15-year contract that culminates in a lifelong pension; to a mainly short-service contract that will see soldiers serving for four years, after which most go home without a pension.


A key moment in these young soldiers’ careers will come when they complete four years of service. At that juncture, they can apply to continue in service and, based on their abilities, up to 25 per cent of a batch can remain in service. These soldiers will switch over from short-service to long-service contracts, going on to form the backbone of the military.


The key element in this service model is that only 25 per cent of each batch, which has been chosen to remain in service, goes on to eventually draw a pension. Lower pensions would save money for greater capital spending on equipment modernisation – a key step towards battlefield effectiveness.


In the current year’s (2022-23) defence allocation of Rs 525,120 crore, a whopping 23 per cent – about Rs 119,696 crore – is allocated for pensions. An even larger share will go on salaries for serving soldiers, sailors and airmen (hereafter “soldiers”), taking personnel costs to more than 50 per cent of the defence budget.


An unarguable benefit from short-term service under Agnipath will be a younger military that is more attuned to the rigours of the battlefield. Lieutenant General Anil Puri, the Department of Military Affairs (DMA) general who has been a leading light in the formulation of Agnipath, estimates that the military’s average age will drop from the current 32 years to a youthful 27 years. A younger military, or so the DMA argues, would be fitter, more mentally robust, dynamic and more technically savvy than older soldiers.


The Ministry of Defence (MoD) is also arguing that Agnipath would result in the skilling of soldiers, increasing the average technological levels when they are released back into society. Recruits who join after passing the 10th class will be given a 12th class certificate. Recruits who join after passing the 12th class will get a diploma. Puri says these promotions will be based on the assumption that recruits had imbibed skills such as “physical education”; and “supply chain management”, learned while delivering ammunition and supplies to forward troops. Credit is also given for learning how to handle sophisticated weaponry and specialist vehicles.


This increased technological savvy amongst the populace is expected to incrementally increase as greater numbers of youngsters re-enter civilian life after their four-year military tenures. From 46,000 recruits in the first four years of Agnipath, the number of recruits taken in during the fifth year will leap to 90,000; and to 125,000 from the sixth year onwards. That means that, from the 10th year onwards, Agnipath will yield 25,000 soldiers (20 per cent of 125,000) for extended service tenures, while 100,000 will head home after completing their four-year service tenures.


Given that, currently, about 50,000 soldiers enter service each year and a similar number go home, this deficit would have to be bridged from somewhere.


Another key point of concern is: Where are the jobs for the 100,000 young men discharged from service each year? The MoD argues that these trained and disciplined soldiers would side-step smoothly into government and factory jobs.


In fact, the transition is more difficult. Government data studied by Business Standard shows that just 2.4 per cent of ex-servicemen who applied for a post-retirement job were actually able to get one. Neither state nor central governments have been able to recruit enough to fill the reserved quotas. Between 32 Central ministries, 22,168 positions are reserved for veterans. However, only 1.60 per cent of those have been filled. Of the 1.15 million positions in the Indian Railways, veterans have managed to fill only 1.4 per cent of them, according to government figures.


That said, the government has announced the reservation of greater numbers of vacancies for recruits who have completed their four-year military service tenures. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has announced the reservation of 10 per cent of job vacancies in CAPFs (central armed police forces) and Assam Rifles for Agniveers. This includes a three-year age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit, which has been relaxed further to five years for the first batch of Agniveers. This constitutes a significant reversal by the MHA from decades of resisting the allocation of job vacancies in the CAPFs for retired soldiers. The MHA is assuming that these hardened veterans would require little training beyond a few weeks of orientation.


Keeping pace with the MHA, the MoD has also announced a 10 per cent reservation quota for Agniveers in ministry jobs, including the Coast Guard, defence civilian posts and in 16 defence public sector undertakings. This would be in addition to existing reservations for ex-servicemen.


Private industry has also promised the government job vacancies for retired Agniveers. Puri says that 85 private firms, including Bharat Forge, the Reliance Group and even foreign firms such as Apple have promised job reservations for retired Agniveers. Like the CAPFs, these firms are assuming that the Agniveers’ ingrained discipline would make them model workers.


Perhaps the greatest unknown in this bold initiative lies in the way human relationships play out – not just between the Agniveers, who will be competing with their fellows for permanent jobs beyond their four-year tenures – but also between the Agniveers and the existing full-time soldiers who are steeped in the regimental system, which is based on long term loyalties. How this plays out will perhaps hold the keys to the success or failure of Agnipath.

Trial by fire



·       Younger military, with the average age dropping from 32 to 27 yrs

·       Skilling will increase average technological levels when they are released back in society

·       This increased tech savvy will increase as Agnipath recruitment jumps from 46,000 in the first four years to 125,000 from the sixth year.



·       From year-10 on, Agnipath will yield 25,000 full-time soldiers, roughly half the number that join the services each year

·       Lack of jobs for men discharged from service each year

·       Business Standard analysis shows that that just 2.4 per cent of ex-servicemen who applied for a post-retirement job were actually able to get one


How the govt proposes to cope

·       Home ministry announced 10 per cent reservation of job vacancies in central armed police forces and Assam Rifles for Agniveers

·       Defence ministry has also announced a 10 per cent reservation quota for Agniveers in ministry jobs, including the Coast Guard, defence civilian posts and in 16 defence public sector undertakings

·       85 private firms, including Bharat Forge, Reliance Group and foreign firms such as Apple, have promised job reservations for retired Agniveers


  1. # can it be the case that narendrabhai, amitbhai, working together, are as prudently circumspect as earlier governments, unwilling to implement the same recommendation reiterated every ten years by each pay commission that the GoI needs to not ignore, waste the military training and experience of infantrymen, and other soldiers, in their very early thirties, when filling the ranks of paramilitary armed police forces that retain their constabulary till the age of 60. does this merely confirm that the government of india is hobbled when it comes to taking any decision the IPS, IAS lobby perceive as whittling down the cabals monopoly. the CISF are a watch and ward entity, there is no advantage in excluding a 32 year old soldier from duties that entail watching airport queues, checking baggage, manning entrances, exits, in favour of a 20 year old constable, or BSF patrolling the border fencing while always ready to be pulled back and replaced by the regular army should hostilities commence, performing the frontier flamenco at wagah, carrying out embassy security at indian missions.

    the french grande ecole national d' administration, its alumni monopolised the higher bureaucracy, dominating the ranks of judges, ministers, was simply shut down, abolished by that country's president in april, 2021.

    maybe it is time that the government of india's highest grades are filled by open competition from among the best. with all positions in the higher administrative grade and above being notified, and applications called for in an open selection. babus in service indicating willingness to be considered by the search committee empaneling the select list. that outside the privilege and patronage system of monopoly ring fenced by the IAS and allied services cabal the babucracy has zero cachet is difficult to deny. corporate sector head hunters seem to have as little interest in poaching IAS, IPS worthies, rendering these services as of as little interest as they have shown in military officers of the general officer grade being of CEO material.

    the executive authority of the government of india according article 74, of the CoI, 1950 is to be exercised by the council of ministers headed by the prime minister. the executive authority takes its decisions based on deliberations at its cabinet committees and to these its secretariat is excluded. art 74(2) privileges this executive action from any examination by a court of law. there is no proviso that decisions taken, advised to the president are limited to, exercised in accordance with advise tendered by its secretariat.

  2. our army wants Israeli equipment, but when it comes to implementing similar processes as that used by Israeli Millitary, they cry from the top of their lungs.
    Israeli Millitary with 3 year stint of duty can fight and win wars that too where they were facing a lot bigger enemy. Why cannot our millitary do the same with less odds than Israeli millitary?
    Are our soldiers training processes of lower quality?

    1. Sir,
      The problem is people like you, who do not understand difference between an Israeli Conscription and Agniveer scheme. Just a reminder that a little knowledge is a very dangerous thing.
      But in India, Everyone and especially those part of civil services think that they know everything. Don't know when military will get another Manekshaw?


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