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Agniveer Scheme: Let us look at it differently and objectively

There are around two hundred nations in the world and each has tailored its defense needs and forces according to several strategic factors and most importantly the economic condition. One thing is clear: defending a nation is not a welfare scheme.

       “America without her soldiers would be like God without his angels“: Claudia Pemberton

Every nation needs to defend itself from external aggression. It is also true that every nation has different priorities, different challenges and different level of affordability for defense. You cannot expect Maldives or Sri Lanka to have an Aircraft carrieer- it may be on their wish list though. The United States has a total of 11 aircraft careers and 9 helicopter careers- so be it.

India has only two. India also has a very large standing army, sizeable navy as well as air force.

All nations need to keep themselves battle-ready and battle-worthy all the time. Defense forces are like Insurance for people of the nation- you like it or not you get your personal life insurance, health insurance and car insurance- and pray like hell that you should never require it. Who wants to die, who wants to go to a hospital or meet with a car crash?

You go abroad for a holiday, you take out insurance with substantial cover, no? But most do not get to encash it and it goes down the drain for you but a profit for the insurance company. This is what life is all about.

There are around two hundred nations in the world and each has tailored its defense needs and forces according to several strategic factors and most importantly the economic condition. One thing is clear: defending a nation is not a welfare scheme. Least seen as an employment scheme. You need it and you recruit accordingly- need-based.

If a nation thinks that way then it is welfare for some and ‘farewell’ for the nation.

How to augment your fighting or combat strength without actually augmenting it?

It is a strategic paradox that has to be handled differently to work. Most nations have found a way out by thinking out of the box. Let me say this categorically that in this case ‘one size fits all’ does not work and cannot work.

Compulsory military service is a way forward which several nations have adopted. They all have tweaked it to fit their body size- like you buy a readymade suit but a bit of tailoring is required. Or you get a tailormade suit stitched- which can be expensive.

For instance, Singapore a tiny nation has made military service mandatory for all citizens where people between 16.5 years to 40 have to serve for two years. After this, they are let go. At the bottom most level, new recruits gets around 755 Singapore dollars per month which is INR 46,800 per month approximately.  

After that you go back to where you came from. You go back to your job or if not employed back to looking for a job or studying. Their standing army is around 70,000 people and they take around 50,000 people every year for compulsory service.  The guys going out are on the reservist list for the next ten years and also undergo a physical fitness test every year! Russia, France, Kuwait, Taiwan, Thailand and some more have a similar system- of course with different conditions of service. There is no state obligation to give you a job after this- you give yourself to the state and not the other way round. If the government has to absorb you then you become a part of regular standing army- these are totally two different things.

“This nation will remain the land of the free only so long as it is the home of the brave”: Elmer Davis

Look at the force multiplier effect.

It is a force multiplier in the literal sense!

Israel mobilized some 360,000 reservists, roughly 4% of country’s population—functionally tripling the size of its force, within days, these forces were at the border fighting the Gaza war.

Need of Indian armed forces are unique- a hybrid model is adopted

Agniveer scheme has been formulated to keep the forces young and also build some kind of a reserve which can be called upon when required. Of course this would be economical too. You are taking a raw guy and training him for several months- investing your resources and also paying him money for this. An entry level person can be a school pass out (10+2) and trained for around 6 months and serves three and a half years thereafter.

In the first year, Agniveers receive a monthly package of INR 30,000, with an in-hand salary of INR 21,000. They contribute INR 9,000 to the Agniveer Corpus Fund, which is matched by the Government. As the years progress, the salary increases, with the fourth-year package amounting to INR 40,000 per month. Twenty five percent are retained and rest go back to their respective homes- now fully confident to take on the world- yes, they can then do a graduation course of their liking thereafter. He also gets a tax-free lump sum of INR 12 lakhs.

Look at the other scenario.

Let us say if a person finishes his four year graduation after school, what does he do after that? He fends for a job and mostly struggles for next three to four years, making ends meet. An average graduate gets no more than ten to fifteen thousand INR/- per month. After 8 years (4 years graduation + 4 years experience) he is not at all at an employability curve/quotient equivalent to an Agniveer with 4 years sterling experience and a 4 year degree which he does after his Agniveer stint. He is a trained, disciplined, hardened horse- with 12 lacks as bonus giving a head start of 4 years @ INR 25,000/- per month.

All of them get a work experience of 42 months. Today work experience of any type turns a greenhorn into an effective human resource. As compared to a plain graduate spending 4 years whiling away time on their parent’s money remains unemployable thereafter. Here he gets exposure to leadership, teamwork and a feeling of belonging to an elite organisation.

I have interviewed more than 8000 graduates and groomed 2000 MBA managers and I have seen that a two-month summer internship transforms their personality. 42 months is a huge experience.

This is in national interest and not an employability scheme.

If our think tanks had their way- and the large number of well-educated Indians included, they would want a compulsory military service for everyone. But this is wishful thinking.

Putting millions through this training would be cost-prohibitive. Therefore, a hybrid model would work for us and let us not find unnecessary faults in this.

A pensionable 20-year service does not necessarily get loyalty as many argue about. As you come closer to retirement you become less risk-taking- with bigger family liabilities.

“Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. it flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it“: Unknown

Ayodhra Ram Mandir special coverage by OpIndia

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Virender Kapoor
Virender Kapoor
Author, inspirational Guru. 'What you can learn from military principles' 'Excellence the Amitabh Bachchan way' 'Speaking the Modi way' 'Winning Instinct - decoding the power within' 'PQ - How it matters more than IQ'

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