The Curse of Agnipath (Way of Fire) and the Struggle of Indian Youth against a Crass Betrayal

By Prof. Sanjay Kumar

Indian government has discontinued the established recruitment policy for soldiers in defence forces.

Instead of being recruited for 15 years on a regular government salary, and lifelong pension and medical benefits after that, the soldiers will now be recruited under a new scheme called Agnipath.

Under this scheme soldiers will be recruited for four-year contract service, during which they will get a consolidated amount between Rs 25,000/ to Rs 35,000/ per month, as against the regular government salary.

Only 25% of these soldiers will be kept after four years. The remaining 75% will be relieved with a one-time payment of Rs 11 lakhs and no other benefits. After four years in the defence forces, this 75% will again be in the job market looking for employment. 

वर्कर्स यूनिटी को सपोर्ट करने के लिए सब्स्क्रिप्शन ज़रूर लें- यहां क्लिक करें

In many parts of rural India employment in defence forces is an important source of youth employment, while retired soldiers with assured pension are an important component of local economy.

Youth from these regions physically and mentally train themselves for years before recruitment. Employment in defence forces is one of the best employment they hope for. The new scheme is a cruel joke on them.

Given the lack of jobs, and depressed economic condition of lower to middle-income people in the country, their frustration and anger is out in the open, and they have taken to public agitation. Facing stiff opposition from thousands of youth on street, the government has tried to mollify them with a string of cosmetic concessions.

It has increased the recruitment age from 21 to 23 years, and announced 10% reservation for soldiers demobilized after four years in central armed police forces like CRPF, CISF, etc. Indira Gandhi Open University has announced that it will start a skill-based BA course for these soldiers. 

Like the demonetization, corona lockdown and farm laws, this new scheme is also a hair-brained plan of Modi regime. Without any discussion with stakeholders, prior preparation and thinking through all consequences, Modi government announces such schemes with a bang.

It advertises these as work of a genius, but in reality show the government to be a combination of arrogance and stupidity. On the other hand, it needs to be appreciated that all such schemes are driven by a clear class agenda. They destroy existing economic opportunities for working Indians, and directly, or indirectly benefit rich classes and corporates.

The motivation for the new recruitment scheme is said to be the burgeoning pension and salaries of soldiers. Without realizing that men and women of the country who risk their lives and limbs for security of the country deserve at least a decent employment and retirement, like a typical miserly trader the Modi government appears focused only upon cutting its costs.

The government wants to hire them on short-term contract with little liability, and then throw them out without any concern for their future.  All Indians deserve employment, all working Indians deserve decent income, and all Indians who have worked through their life and are retired, deserve decent pension. This should be the prime aim of any democratic government.

However, ever since neo-liberalism became the guiding policy of all governments in India since 1990s, state and central governments have been cutting down on the number of people employed by them on regular salary and pension benefits.

According to one estimate, over sixty lakh sanctioned posts with the central and state governments are lying vacant. In 2014, 11% sanctioned posts were lying vacant.

In 2018, after four years of Modi government this percentage had doubled to 22%. During the four-year period, the number of people employed by Central government actually declined from 32 lakhs 24 thousand to 30 lakh 88 thousand, a net loss of 1 lakh 36 lakh. 

While the number of vacancies against sanctioned posts have been increasing, hundreds of thousands of Anganwadi workers, doctors, school and college teachers, safai karmacharis, security staff, and clerical staff are working for central and state governments on contract employment.

They are forced to work long hours on a pittance, and can be thrown out at a moment’s notice. Their working conditions are same as private sector workers who work only at the pleasure of and for the profit of their employer. The youth of India are aware that in the sea of misery and uncertainty of private sector and contract jobs with government, the regular employment in government sector is one way to a decent salary and future.

Modi and other governments in India have been robbing them off of even this opportunity.  The Agnipath scheme is nothing but contractualisation of job of soldiers of Indian defense forces. No surprise, the youth who trained for and hoped that they will have a better future working for Indian defense forces are so angry and agitated. 

Modi government thought that by giving a patriotic sounding name to its scheme of contractualisation soldiers’ job, it will be able to fool the youth of India. They clearly have not bought into its lies and false promises. The next step for them should be organization and drawing of broader support from people of India.

The ruling party and its sycophantic media are trying to defame their agitation as all violence and arson. The ruling party forces tried to do the same to farmer’s agitation too. That agitation showed that organization and commitment to a clear sighted goal can defeat a most dictatorial and arrogant government.

The youth of India agitating against the Agnipath scheme, need to show similar commitment and organization.

(वर्कर्स यूनिटी के फ़ेसबुकट्विटर और यूट्यूब को फॉलो कर सकते हैं। टेलीग्राम चैनल को सब्सक्राइब करने के लिए यहां क्लिक करें। मोबाइल पर सीधे और आसानी से पढ़ने के लिए ऐप डाउनलोड करें।)

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