India unveiled a new scheme called “Agnipath” on Tuesday for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, largely on a short-term contractual basis, with an aim to cut the ballooning salary and pensions bill.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announced the new scheme at a media briefing, shortly after the Cabinet Committee on Security approved it.
Under the scheme, soldiers get released after four years of service, with the best being retained and re-inducted for permanent duty.
Soldiers recruited under the new model will be called ‘Agniveers‘.
‘Agniveers‘ will form a distinct rank and have their own insignia as part of their uniforms. The age limit for applicants ranges from 17.5 years to 21 years.The annual pay for the first year would approximately be INR 4.76 lakh with going up to INR 6.92 lakh in the fourth year.
After the four-year tenure, soldiers will be entitled to receive ‘Seva Nidhi’ benefits. Under the scheme, a soldier will contribute 30% of his pay, with the government putting in an equal amount, akin to a provident fund. At their retirement after four years, the soldiers will receive around Rs 11.71 lakh, exempt from Income Tax.
‘The scheme will increase employment opportunities and aim to create a youthful profile of the armed forces. The ‘Agniveers‘ will be given a good pay package and an exit retirement package after four years of service,’ Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said at a press conference after a Union Cabinet meeting.
Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar said the scheme will ensure a wider talent pool for recruitment in the armed forces, adding that women will also be inducted.
Army Chief General Manoj Pande said the scheme ‘aims to bring a paradigm shift in recruitment in the armed forces.’
‘It will help ensure optimum balance between youth and experience in the Army,’ he added.
General Pande said the Army’s operational capability will be fully maintained during the initial implementation stage of the scheme.
The ‘Agnipath’ scheme earlier known as ‘Tour of Duty’, was launched in the presence of the chiefs of the three services. Currently, the Army recruits young people under the short service commission for an initial tenure of 10 years, which is extendable up to 14 years.
Over 45,000 recruits are expected to be inducted in the first go.
The scheme is aimed at slashing the salary and pension bills of the three services, which have been increasing rapidly, forming a considerable chunk of the defence budget.
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