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Agnipath Scheme – Conscription and Short-Term Services in the Military

The launch of the new Agnipath scheme has ignited the flame of controversy about the selection and recruitment process of the Indian armed forces.  Does short-term recruitment affect the effectiveness of the armed forces? Do these short-term recruits have the same kind of motivation and determination as to their counterparts? Are we the first ones to come up with this kind of recruitment model?

Conscription is a term connected with such short-term recruitment for military service. Conscription is the state-mandated enlistment of people in a national service, mainly military service. Conscription has been existing for a long time, and it continues present day under various names.

There are multiple benefits to such short services with the military. In addition, to keep a reserve of people for defending the country at any point in time, the participants will be benefited from the better discipline of military training, and improvement in their personality. They will secure much positive outlook,  physical fitness, and get opportunity to learn new skills, in addition to earning some money in the short term.  The flip side can be the loss of a few years in their career and the problems of adjusting before and after such short-term service.

Here is an overview of similar short-term recruitment schemes or the existence of Conscription in a few well-known countries per the market research data.

Russia’s Hybrid Model

Following a mix of the contract-conscript models in the armed forces, Russia enforces a 12- month mandatory service.  Though these conscripts are not deployed into critical battle positions like the contract soldiers they serve as drivers, and cool and maintenance personnel.  Avoiding these compulsory drafts is punishable by up to 2 years of imprisonment.

Law to Register – United States

With a selective service system that is enforced by the law where all male citizens between the ages of 18 and 25 are required to register.  This serves as an important element when the country needs its services.  Joining for four years plus four years reserve duty, option for full service which gives them the eligibility for pension and benefits after serving for 20 years.

Selective Compulsory Military Service – China

Those who are between 18–22 years of age can enter this selective compulsory military service, with a 24-month service obligation.  But this rule is not very much in common as the country produces more than the required volunteers for its military.

Israel Defence Forces (IDF- Compulsory for Men and Women

The Israel Defence Forces (IDF) has compulsory service for both men and women.  They need to serve for 32 months and 24 months respectively as a regular conscript service.  Option to build a career with full wage and pension benefits too.  The ones who opt out of permanent service are put under reserve forces and if when needed must serve for up to one month every three years.

Pakistan volunteers

Though the country’s Constitution has conscription in a state of war.  Due to a high number of volunteers, this rule is not in practice.  Volunteers between 17-25 years are selected through a professional process, and successful candidates are commissioned into the forces after training.  The country also maintains a small force of reserve, who are not eligible for the same pension and retirement benefits as regular servicemen.

In the light of the above, the Agnipath scheme is NOT something newly invented but has been part of society for a long time. Agnipath scheme will definitely give opportunities for a greater number of young people to get trained by the Indian Army. It will give them the opportunity to enter the defense service as well as be prepared to take on new challenges in case they miss the further entry option.  With this entry of a greater number of youths into the Army, the average age of Indian army soldier soldiers will fall down to 24 years in about 8-10 years from the current age band of 32-33 years.

To a country that holds the title of the world’s largest democratic nation, the words like compulsory-mandatory and conscription sound contradictory.  India has always allowed its citizen to join its armed forces of their own will and this applies to the new scheme as well.  It gives us an opportunity to serve and experience the life of an army man rather than a means of earning.

On one hand, the government needs to promote this to serve the nation rather than as a mode of employment and budget cut.  On the other hand, it gives the opportunity to the youth to get trained to take up more challenges later in life. As of now, it is in the infant stage and can expect further fine-tuning as it progresses.

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