New Delhi , June 19: Amid the rising demands for the scrapping of the newly launched Agnipath recruitment scheme for the military, a senior Army officer on Sunday clarified that the programme will not be rolled back and said that it is the "only progressive step to make the country young".
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Addressing a joint press briefing with the officers from the Indian Navy and Air Force, Lt General Anil Puri, Additional Secy, Dept of Military Affairs, MoD, said that a number of casualties are reported just for health purposes from high-altitude areas. "Coming to the rollback of the scheme, no. Why should it be rolled back? It is the only progressive step to making the country young. Why is it being made young? We are tinkering with 'Desk ki Raksha (national security). There is no space. I will give you an example. Do you know how many casualties are reported just for health purposes from high-altitude areas? Do read about it, then you would come to know why young is important," the officer said.
The announcement of the officer came after the violent protests broke out in some parts of the country wherein incidents like stone-pelting and setting trains on fire were reported.
The officer informed in connection with the violence that the aspirants willing to join the forces will have to give a certificate that "they were not part of protest or vandalism" with 100 per cent police verification.
"Indian Army's foundation is discipline. There is no space for arson or vandalism. Every individual will give a certificate that they were not part of the protest or vandalism. Police verification is 100 per cent, no one can join without that," he said.
He said that the individual against whom an FIR is lodged would not be allowed to join the forces.
"And if any FIR lodged against them, they can't join...They (aspirants) will be asked to write as part of the enrolment form that they were not part of the arson, their police verification will be done," Lt Gen Puri said.
"We had not anticipated the recent violence over this scheme. There is no place for indiscipline in the Armed Forces. All candidates will have to give a written pledge that they did not indulge in any arson/violence," he added.
He further said that the Centre will start with the recruitment of 46,000 Army aspirants to 'analyse' the scheme.
"In next 4-5 years, our intake (of soldiers) will be 50,000-60,000 and will increase to 90,000 - 1 lakh subsequently. We've started small at 46,000 to analyse the scheme...and to build up infra capacity," said Lt Gen Puri.
He further said, "Our intake of 'Agniveers' will go up to 1.25 lakhs in near future and will not remain at 46,000 which is the present figure."
The top military officer also said the Agniveers will get compensation for Rs one crore if he sacrifices his life in service of the nation.
"We want a mix of josh and hosh and that is why we wanted to reduce the age profile. The average age is 32 years at present and we want to reduce it as per the recommendations of the Kargil review committee and Arun Singh committee report," Arun Puri said.
He said around 17,600 people are taking premature retirement from the three services every year.
"No one ever tried to ask them what they will do after retirement," he stated.
He further asserted that Agniveers would get the same allowance in areas like Siachen and other areas which are applicable to the regular soldiers serving at present.
"No discrimination against them in service conditions," he added.
"This reform was long pending. We want to bring youthfulness and experience with this reform. Today, a large number of jawans are in their 30s and officers are getting command much later than in the past," he added.
The Union Cabinet on June 14 approved a recruitment scheme for Indian youth to serve in the three services of the Armed Forces called Agnipath and the youth selected under this scheme will be known as Agniveers.