After the initial announcement of Agnipath recruitment scheme for the defence services and the violent response to it by youth, details about the nature of the scheme are now trickling out gradually. A document put out in public domain by the Indian Air Force (IAF) has revealed that the contractual soldiers hired under Agnipath will be authorised only 30 days leave a year as against 90 days that a regular soldier gets.
The document also revealed that the contractual soldier will not be allowed to leave the service prior to the completion of the engagement period i.e. four years. However, competent authority may permit the same in ‘exceptional cases’.
A regular soldier in the Army, whether an officer or jawan, gets 60 days of Annual Leave and 30 days of Casual Leave in a year. He has the option of either taking the entire annual leave or part of it in one go. However, since the contractual soldiers in Agnipath will be serving for only four years, giving them 90 days of leave a year will result in one entire year being given away in leave out of the four years-service.
While this may appear logical, it is likely to create two classes of soldiers in one unit where for all intents and purposes the contractual soldier and the regular soldier will be performing the same duties and for the same amount of time.
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It may be difficult for the Commanding Officer or the Company Commander to justify to the contractual soldier why he is being treated differently. Combined with the fact that the contractual soldier will wear a different insignia on his uniform identifying him as ‘Agniveer’ is also likely to emphasise the divide between the two classes of soldiers. The IAF document also states that the contractual Agniveer will not be required to make any contribution to Provident Fund and that he will not be eligible for any pension or gratuity.
In the event of death during the contractual period on bonafide duty the next of kin will be paid an insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh and an ex-gratia of Rs 44 lakh making it Rs 92 Lakh in total. They will also get full pay for the unserved period upto four years of the contractual period and balance accumulated (as on date) in the individuals ‘Seva Nidhi’ fund along with government’s contribution. Thus, the next of kin will not get the entire four years’ sum of Seva Nidhi fund which the soldier may have gotten had he been alive.
In case of disability due to conditions of service and attributable to the service the contractual soldier, Agniveer, will get Rs 44 lakh for 100 per cent disability, Rs 25 lakh for 75 per cent disability and Rs 15 lakh for 50 per cent disability from public fund. Here again the individual will get full pay for unserved period upto four years and only balance accumulated as on date in the ‘Seva Nidhi’ fund.
Golden opportunity afforded by Covid: Lt Gen Anil Puri
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi on Sunday afternoon, the Additional Secretary, Department of Military Affairs, left everyone bewildered when he spoke of a golden opportunity afforded by Covid to bring in the much needed recruitment reforms in the shape of Agnipath scheme.
Addressing the media persons, Lt Gen Anil Puri called Covid ‘God sent’ and said the military had been trying since 1984 to rightsize but it was Covid that presented the opportunity. He was alluding to the fact that no recruitment took place during Covid period at its peak.
“Khuda ne aur nature ne humein vo mauka diya Covid ka. Agar ye mauka nahin aata to hum 1984 se lage hue the kis din kam karein. Ye shayad oopar wale ne suna ya nature ne suna iske andar main apko nahin bata sakta but ussne yehi mauka diya. Iss se sunehra mauka nahin tha…it was God sent (God and nature gave us the chance with Covid. Had this chance not come…we were trying to rightsize since 1984. Perhaps this was done by the God almighty or nature, I cannot tell you this but this is the chance he gave. There was no golden opportunity better than this….it was God sent,” said Lt Gen Puri.
With millions of people dying due to Covid over the past two years, it was not correct on the General’s part to articulate his thoughts with such choice of words. He could have said the same thing in a more bland manner without making Covid sound like a God given gift for Agnipath recruitment scheme.