Indian army
Indian Army soldiers march during the Army Day Parade, in New Delhi. Image Credit: ANI

Dubai: India is revamping its recruitment process for military personnel below officer rank, in an effort to make its troops fitter and younger on the front lines. Under the new system announced on Tuesday, men and women between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 will be brought into the armed forces for a maximum of four years.

Here’s a look at the new Agnipath scheme.

What is the Agnipath scheme?

The Agnipath (path of fire) scheme announced by India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday is a recruitment programme for Indian youth to serve in the Armed Forces.

The youth selected under this scheme will be known as ‘Agniveers’ and about 46,000 will be recruited this year.

The Agniveers will form a distinct rank in the three services, and will also wear a distinct insignia as part of their uniform.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh army navy air force chiefs
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and Chief of Army Staff General Manoj Pande during a joint press conference on the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme, at the National Media Centre, in New Delhi on Tuesday, June 14, 2022. Image Credit: ANI

How will it help the armed forces?

"The scheme will increase employment opportunities and aim to create a youthful profile of the Armed forces," Defence Minister Singh said.

Military officials said the new system would help bring down the average age of the armed forces.

Rs 1.17million

is the package recruits will receive on their release after the four year term.

In the Indian army, the largest of the three services, the average age would drop to 26 from 32, Army chief General Manoj Pande, said.

The move is designed to attract young talent and create ‘future ready’ soldiers.

"There won't be any compromise on the skillset of Agniveers. We will deploy Agniveers on borders," General Pande said.

Indian army women
Indian Army’s women soldiers celebrate after passing out. Image Credit: AFP

"Agnipath scheme aims to bring a paradigm shift in recruitment in armed forces. The scheme will help ensure optimum balance between youth and experience in the Army."

Analysts said the move would bring down the armed force's pension costs, which along with salaries, form the largest chunk of the defence budget.

How can you join the armed forces under the new scheme?

Recruitment will begin within 90 days under the scheme which will bring ‘all India, all class’ recruitment to the services. The armed forces will conduct recruitment rallies at various campuses. Enrollment will be done through an online centralised system for all three services.

At what age will recruitment begin?

Under the new system, men and women between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 will be recruited into the armed forces. The recruits will train for six months and serve in the military for three and a half years.

During this period, the Agniveers will be imparted with various military skills and experience, discipline, physical fitness and leadership qualities.

Indian army soldier
Indian Army soldier patrols at Line of Control (LOC) at Poonch district, in Jammu. Image Credit: ANI

What happens after four years?

At the end of the tenure, 25 per cent of the recruits are expected to be retained in the armed forces. These soldiers, selected for enrolment in the Armed Forces as regular cadre, will be required to serve for a further engagement period of at least 15 years.

The others will be infused into the civil society where they can contribute towards the nation building process. The skills gained by each 'Agniveer' will be recognised in a certificate to form part of his unique resume.

Traditionally, soldiers serve for about two decades with years of interspersed training and then retire with a guaranteed pension.

India soldiers
Soldiers take oath after completing their training at 39 GTC (Gorkha training centre), in Varanasi. Image Credit: ANI

How much will the new recruits earn?

Agniveers will be offered a salary package of Rs 476,000 in the first year which goes up to Rs 692,000 in the final year.

During this period, 30 per cent of their salary will be set aside under a Seva Nidhi programme, and the government will contribute an equal amount every month.

What other benefits do they have?

The one-time 'Seva Nidhi' package of Rs 1.17 million on release after four years will be exempt from Income Tax.

The recruits will not be entitled to gratuity and pension.

Agniveers will be provided non-contributory Life Insurance Cover of Rs 4.8 million for their terms in the armed forces.

What is the strength of the Indian armed forces?

India has one of the world's largest armed forces with some 1.4 million personnel.

- With inputs from agencies