NEW DELHI: Implementation of the newly announced Agnipath Scheme to recruit the Other Ranks (Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen) should have not been done in the first place and even if it’s being done, it should have followed a proper study and a pilot project tells senior Army officers.

Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia (Retd) calls this scheme a Death knell for the armed forces. “There has been no pilot project, on ground implementation and analysis of such a serious and significant change.”

His contention is that when it is related to national security a serious approach is warranted. “Test-bedding to raise the Integrated Battle Groups, senior officers entrusted to first study before the reorganisation of the Indian Armed forces into theatres what compelled this fundamental change?” asks Lt Gen Bhatia who was the former DG Military Operations of the Indian Army and headed the think tank Centre for Joint Warfare Studies.

Government on Tuesday announced the new scheme termed as Agnipath through which recruitment for the Army, Navy and Air Force will be done, where a youth will join only for the four years initially.

After four years the entire batch will leave and fresh recruitment of 25 percent from them will be done to serve permanently, for 15 years or more. At present the soldiers join for a minimum of 15 years and they get pension while leaving.

There won’t be pension to the people under Agnipath.

Expressing a surprise, Maj Gen Ajay Seth (Retd) is also inquisitive. Why disturb something which is not wrong. Don't fix what isn't broken Tour of Duty/ Agnipath. “In terms of the revenue expenditure on the Indian Armed forces the other ranks cost minimum but deliver maximum. When we look at money we also see value for money. Let’s not create an irreversible and avoidable turmoil and turbulence with two adversaries conjoined to trouble us.” He says. It should have been implemented at the smaller scale and when found suitable only then should have been implemented.

Both the officers feel that threat perception is rising and so is the stance of China and Pakistan, Independently and individually, which is hardening against India.

Also, it will gradually lead to Militarization of our society, “nearly 40,000 (75%) youth year on year back will be rejected out of the Agnipath and a semi trained in arms former Agniveers will be going into the society dejected. Not a good idea. No one gains.” Cautions Lt Gen Bhatia.

However, every change in the beginning raises apprehensions, believes Veteran Maj Gen Ashok Kumar.

“This scheme is transformational and will benefit both the Armed Forces and the Country in an asymmetrical manner. It will bring down the current age profile of the frontline Units which stands at 32 years at present to 26 years in four to six years’ time frame.

Not only that, since the retention will be only 25 percent of the intake there will be a qualitative upgrade of the Units profile, tells Gen Kumar.

“The people who now will be part of the Units will highly capable to handle Technologically superior weapons, more adept to handling future wars, will be able to lead the small team actions at the Non-commissioned officers level once they reach that stage and therefore the entire Army will be more battle ready than it is now.”

As far as the country is concerned there is a large number of youth in the country. India is a youth bulge, the biggest asset used constructively if used right. India will reach ahead in the comity of the nation in the decade ahead. India will not only become a regional power but it will go much beyond that.

And therefore it is very important that the energy of the youth is channelized, they are disciplined and they connect to the nation better. That will happen through this scheme, they will be able to don the uniform with dignity and honour.”

Option to be retained severance package of more than 11.5 lakhs and their intake outside will not remain limited to guard duties which have been the pattern but will be taken at higher positions.

However there are certain worries about those who won’t get jobs and will become a matter of concern. “It may be of some concern but as we go ahead I am sure the government and other stakeholders will create conditions to get more people absorbed.”

This Agnipath scheme will assist the nation as India is at the cusp of a major transformation, believes Major Gen Kumar.