‘Agnipath’ is a scheme that hurts the jobless and compromises national security

Anonymous people standing on street among smoke during protests at night

A retrenchment scheme that hurts India’s jobless and compromises national security is what the patriotic employment scheme ‘Agnipath’ is.

The yearly open recruitment of around 40,000 soldiers will be done under the Agnipath scheme. It is a scheme where only 10,000 jobs are provided annually in place of the 40,000 jobs that were generated earlier.

It compromises the nation’s security because the Army will eventually depend on poorly trained, contractually hired soldiers. The employment reduction scheme is being made into a great employment initiative. The creation of new jobs is being promoted as a result of the partial fulfillment of the one million jobs that have been stuck in various government departments.

Both announcements have been declared at the same time, as if the prime minister has declared war on unemployment.

Even though the larger economic motives and social imperatives behind the Agnipath project have not been understood by the larger public, the impact of the scheme which bars candidates above 21 years and renders 75% of recruits jobless after four years without pension benefits has triggered the anger of those who were desperately trying. The government has responded to the rage on the streets by relaxing the age limit to 23 years for this year but this is not going to extinguish the fire that the scheme has lit since it is not going to address the fundamental question of what happens to the new recruits four years later

The Indian Army and Railways are a major source of employment in Bihar, UP, and Haryana, where unemployment riots have broken. Being a soldier is a real and bare question of daily bread for the poor, unlike the romantic idea of serving the country.

The Railway Recruitment Board changed its eligibility qualification, leaving thousands of candidates high and dry. With the agricultural and unorganised sectors, which provide employment to the stay-behinds, they pinned all their hopes on army recruitment. A bolt from the blue is how Agnipath has come to be.

Modi’s disastrous economic policies have made India’s unemployment crisis worse and now he’s trying to hire more people. The underlying economic problems have not been addressed by the government despite the fact that this resentment is manipulated at the time of the elections.

It is because of this that the promises made by the state governments about giving priority to retired agniveers in police recruitment and the assurance of skill certificates and even degrees at the end of the commission have failed to convince the jobseekers.

A group of people is protesting against the Union government on the Agra-Delhi National Highway. The whole scheme doesn’t pass minimum scrutiny, least of all national security. Lieutenant General B.S. Raju said that if the aim is to keep the army young, Agnipath doesn’t answer how an army can be fit and professional when half of its troops will be on short tours of duty by 2032. The Indian Army would become a kindergarten force with most soldiers having no incentive to invest in learning or face risks, according to an army veteran.

How are these agniveers expected to survive post retrenchment if they only have a skill certificate? The societal risk and social cost of dealing with a military-trained army of unemployed young men are unknown. Modi is leading India into social anarchy. Some military veterans are sympathetic to the ruling regime.

The Government’s plans for demobilised agniveers don’t inspire trust. The only end that this scheme will achieve is buried between the promises and sentences.

The government is desperate to reduce expenditure on salaries and pensions due to the fiscal conservatism driving official policy. Spending on salaries and pensions in the defense budget is more than 2 million dollars. The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management Act was enacted in 2003 to show India’s creditworthiness to global investors and mandates the Union and state governments to adhere to fiscal discipline by bringing the revenue deficit down to zero and holding the fiscal deficit at 3% of GDP. The government must cut revenue expenditure and increase revenues in order to finance pro-capital reforms and spend on the infrastructure needed by global capital.

Though government expenditure is a major source of growth, development, and survival in developing countries, the role of the state was recrafted as facilitation and private capital was assigned the job of unleashing growth and creating jobs. It has failed in this task, but the policies of contractualisation, fixed-term employment, and withdrawal of social benefits are still being implemented. Government recruitment has become tentative and without pension benefits.

The government failed to calculate the social and political costs of bringing this policy to the army. In all likelihood, India is looking at another Modi-made disaster, in line with the previous ones like the Goods and Services Tax and the zero-notice lockdown of 2020.

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