New Delhi: In a major step, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday unveiled the Agnipath scheme which aims to transform the armed forces, bringing down the average age of the soldiers from around 32 years now to 26 years in the next six-seven years.
“In the last few years the government has taken various steps to strengthen the defence forces in the country. In order to make the Indian services the best in the world, the Cabinet on Tuesday approved the Agnipath scheme of recruitment,” Rajnath Singh said.
He was addressing a joint press conference with the Chiefs of the three Services: Gen Manoj Pande, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari and Admiral R Hari Kumar.
The Minister said this would be an attempt to make the profile of the armed forces youthful. It will also increase employment opportunities. Youthful soldiers would mean they can be easily trained for new technologies and their level of health and fitness will also be better.
Making a presentation, Additional Secretary in the Department of Military Affairs, Lt Gen Anil Puri, said the average age of the soldiers today is around 32 years. This will come down to 26 years in six-seven years.
According to the scheme, up to 25 per cent Agniveers are to be selected as regular cadre based on a central, transparent system after four years and 100 per cent candidates can apply on volunteer basis to enroll in regular cadre.
Agniveers will be given an attractive customised monthly package along with Risk and Hardship allowances as applicable in the three services.
On completion of the engagement period of four years, Agniveers will be paid a one time ‘SevaNidhi’ package which shall comprise their contribution including accrued interest and matching contribution from the government equal to the accumulated amount of their contribution including interest.
In the first year of service, an Agniveer will get a monthly customized package of Rs 30,000, Rs 33,000 in the second year, Rs 36,500 in the third and Rs 40,000 in the fourth year.
“A good pay package … on exit after four years of service and a liberal ‘death and disability package’ have also been arranged,” the Minister said.
On exiting, the soldiers would get a one-time financial assistance of Rs 11.71 lakhs.
Seva Nidhi will be exempt from Income Tax. There shall be no entitlement to gratuity and pension.
Agniveers will be provided non-contributory Life Insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh for the duration of their engagement period in the Indian armed forces.
The Agniveers will be imparted with various military skills and experience, discipline, physical fitness, leadership qualities, courage and patriotism.
After a stint of four years, the Agniveers will be infused into the civil society where they can contribute immensely towards the nation building process, officials said.
The individuals selected for enrolment in the Armed Forces as regular cadre would be required to serve for a further engagement period of minimum 15 years and would be governed by the existing terms and conditions of service.