‘RRU will offer courses to Agniveers; Agnipath scheme going to be game-changer’

In the wake of the announcement of Agnipath recruitment scheme for defence forces, Gandhinagar-based Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU), an institution specialising in national security and policing, announced on Monday that it would offer simultaneous courses to “Agniveers” (recruits under Agnipath) during their four-year stint with the Indian Army, Indian Navy or the Indian Air Force (IAF).

Recently, the central government announced the Agnipath scheme under which aspirants aged between 17-and-a-half years and 23 years will be recruited on a four-year contractual basis across the three services. Since the announcement of the scheme, widespread protests have broken out across India with incidents of arson and vandalism in several cities.

Established in 2020 as an institution of national importance, the RRU functions under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and offers specialised undergraduation and postgraduation courses in domains of national security, cyber security, policing and public administration among others. In an exclusive interview with The Indian Express, RRU Vice-Chancellor Dr Bimal Patel spoke to Vaibhav Jha. Excerpts:

How do you see RRU’s role in the Agnipath scheme?

We see an important role of RRU in the Agnipath scheme. Today, we had a meeting with the heads of all departments where we decided that the RRU will be happy to offer undergraduate admissions to matriculates selected under the Agnipath scheme and complete their four-year stint and are no longer part of services. For those who complete their higher secondary board examination and serve as active Agniveers — whether in India or abroad, the RRU will offer simultaneous one-year certificate course, or two-year diploma or a three-year degree course (BA, BCom, BE or BTech), which they can pursue along with their service.

The soldiers need not be physically present through the academic calendar except for orientation and examinations. This will ensure that the skilled personnel of armed forces will now also be academically qualified. This will be possible since we have multiple Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with the Indian Army, Indian Navy, Indian Air Force and armed forces under the MHA.

How do you assess the Agnipath Project?

This scheme is designed to meet the necessity of skilled, tech savvy personnel in our defence forces. We have to see this from the perspective where the youth will be interested in job opportunities as long-term prospects. We have already seen a number of departments, ministries and industrial houses showing interest in hiring skilled manpower for security purposes. This is going to be a game-changer not just for the government but also for the youth of India as they are agile, capable, committed and looking forward to a prosperous and peaceful India where they also have a role to play.

Do you see more participation of youth from Gujarat in the armed forces through Agnipath? Historically very few from Gujarat go into services.

Agnipath will increase the overall geographical representation of youth in the army from any state. Ideas such as patriotism, moral fabric and national values will be reinforced. I do believe that Gujarat’s youth will be encouraged to serve not just the defence forces but also other armed forces, including police.

There is huge vacancy in police departments across cadres in all states. Many times, we are unable to fill those vacancies as we don’t find the right mix of talent, skills and age. If these youth are enrolled in Agnipath, their chances of getting enrolled in other security agencies such as police will automatically rise. So this will take care of the long-term unemployment problem.

What other prospects do Agniveers have once they exit the defence services?

As per a report published in 2017, there will be a demand of 3.1 million trained manpower in corporate and private security services by 2022. With Indian economy booming and security concerns rise across the country, this is a very conservative figure and the corporate world is actively looking for a mix of skilled young personnel with experience.

India does trade worth millions of dollars with other countries and who will be better suited to protect our national interests abroad than our very own indigenous skilled manpower? Through Agnipath, we are looking at three important national verticals — defence, forces under the MHA and corporate & private security.

The government has claimed that only 45,000-50,000 persons will be recruited in the three services annually through Agnipath. Do you see a rise in this number in the coming years?

Absolutely. I see that the first batch of 45,000 Agniveers will create a positive pressure on the youth across the country to join services. The first batch will see the perks of this scheme and the numbers will only rise with time.

We have seen protests against the scheme in several states. What do you think went wrong? Was there any miscommunication with the aspirants?

I cannot comment on what went wrong but I can say with conviction that once the scheme is rolled out, the misconceptions around it will naturally vanish. Whenever a new policy comes out, there are protests against it but with its implementation, the misconceptions also go away.

While announcing the scheme, the government had said that they intend to create technically adept force? Do you think RRU can help train the Agniveers?

As we are an institute of national importance specialising in national security, it will be an honour for the RRU to offer our services to enhance the knowledge and skillset of the Agniveers.

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