Lt. Gen. Anil Puri, the army leader in championing the project, said: “Agnipath will not be cancelled. Why should it be cancelled?”
By Vikas Gupta
Defence News of India, 19 Jun 22
Minimizing violent demonstrations against the Agnipath recruitment program that continues to rock Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Bihar, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Sunday dispatched the army’s top manpower planners at a press conference to send the message: “Agnipath is here to stay”.
Lieutenant General Anil Puri, Assistant Secretary in the Department of Military Affairs (DMA), who spearheaded the design and structuring of the Agnipathe Yojana and is now the leader of the army in the defense of the project, said at the press conference in Delhi: “”The Agnipath scheme will not be canceled. Why should it be cancelled?”
Giving the impression of a strong government, Puri said the concessions the Ministry of Defense had made in the Agnipath plan were not forced by protests and arson, but because they were already underway.
The generals specified a recruiting schedule that made it clear that it was too late to reverse this innovative plan.
Lieutenant General C Bansi Ponnappa, Adjutant General of the Army and Senior Manpower Planner, said army recruitment would start in the first half of August and the first Mohawk will arrive the first week of December, followed by a second batch in February.
Ponappa said the army would hold 83 recruitment rallies and hit “every village” in the country. With the 2011 census placing the number of villages in the country at 6,40,930, this requires each rally to recruit from an average of 7,722 villages. This is clearly an exaggeration.
The Air Force also said it would enlist the first group of Mohawk by December and training would begin before the New Year.
The navy, however, will be the first service to come out of the blocks. The first batch of Mohawk would reach Chilka Lake in Odisha for training by November 21.
The unforeseen protests forced the government to announce several one-off concessions. These include a 10% quota in Department of Defense jobs, which include the Coast Guard, civilian defense positions and the 16 public sector defense companies. This reservation would be in addition to existing employment reservations for veterans.
In addition, the government hastily announced a 10% quota for pensioners Mohawk in the Central Armed Police Force (CAPF), which includes the Central Reserve Police Force, Border Security Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, Seema Suraksha Bal and Assam Rifles, the latest of which comes under the MoD.
From the outset, Puri was tasked with getting the message across that saving money, by reducing the number of retirees or lowering the payroll of serving soldiers, was not a key goal of Agnipath. Instead, the primary goal was to reduce the age profile of service members from the current average of 32 years to a more sustainable average of 27 years.
Puri also used the bait of Agnitate jobs to suppress public disorder and stop arson on the streets. He said any candidate facing a police matter cannot apply Agnipath.