Nelson Mandela, first president of South Africa said, and i quote, “The youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow”
“Agniveers and Future prospects -Training yardstick, a Realistic Assessment. Much debated recruitment scheme ‘Agnipath’ was announced by Ministry of Def on 14 June 2022 and post its announcement, the scheme has generated lot of news all over India: from violent protests in various states to multiple politically inspired speeches, many negatives have been covered and many questions and apprehensions raised. The scheme was launched with an aim to reduce the age profile of the Armed Forces. It ensures max youth of the country will get an opportunity to serve the nation. Lowering the age profile of the army to approx 24 years from earlier 36 yrs ensures increased No. of energetic and more No. of trainable youth in Units duly complimented by selected experienced NCOs. It is envisaged that this will surely help in the overall performance of all Units in near future. Recently, guidelines on induction, training and assessment of Agniveers has been promulgated by respective line directorates to include Directorate of Army AD. The instructors give out comprehensive guidelines on training assessment of the Agniveers and which includes assessment at training centre and at Unit level under respective Commanding Officers.
One of the major issue of Agniveer scheme is that of retention of only 25% of recruited persons. With only beat being retained and balance to be released after culmination of the intended service years. To get themselves in 25% of selection rate, there will be maximum number of competitions, which will result in the overall performance of the Regiment. But here lies the biggest caveat of the entire scheme, how realistic is the implementation of training yardsticks for agniveers in units. With no recruitment for last two and half years, all units are facing huge deficiencies, rising to the tunes of 18-20%. After sustaining through such deficiencies, unit will be flooded with agniveers in next six month. With onus of selection of 25% on Unit, that is to say, rejecting 75% of aspirants from permanent absorption into army, it is a big task. Units are to not only give max opportunity, provide regular training, conduct technical training of the agniveers but has to employ the manpower for the daily routine task too. Which makes the task even more challenging.
Does the present system of daily routine and training mechanism of cadres or training cycles of unit provides opportunities to all future agniveers to showcase their proficiency and enables correct and realistic assessment to units? Even worse, how well are we equipped in present location where max manpower is engaged daily in hide out duties and garrison security duties?
Some of the suggested measures that we can adopt at unit are review of training cycles of the unit to include durn and training objectives, training cycle to be divided into two distinct period to coincide with half yearly and yearly assessment of the agniveers, clear layout of basic training cadres and tech training cadres for agniveers, review of existing upgrading and Map Reading cadres, structured training cadres for agniveers based on annual training objectives designed exclusively for them, annually, the training of agniveers to be in two phases of only four week duration each maximum, unit to Run 3-4 such cadres in each half of training year. This will ensure smaller numbers of agniveers in each batch, The advantage of above would be two fold, firstly, smaller batch will ensure better student- instructor ratio for more meaningful training and assessment and secondly, this young manpower would also be available to unit for its routine tasks, proficiency cadres should culminate with practical and written assessment tests with same difficulty levels and uniformed assessment parameters, each half of training year to have gradually increase training objective to ensure agniveers assessment is minimum up to level of cl-3 soldiers, Training cadres to be divided into basic drills, unit administration, trade proficiency and mandatory physical and practical assessments, on the job training assessment while employed in hide out duties and ground security duties. Same to be officially endorsed in overall assessment. The training cycle to culminate with participation of agniveers in deploy exercise at Unit level.
Above are the few suggestions to ensure realistic training yardstick and assessment of the agniveers. These require further deliberation and brainstorming at all levels. What are the future prospects with induction of agniveers is unit. Some of the points which come in mind are Armed Forces profile to be youthful and dynamic, youthful profile by optimal balance of youth & experience, young service profile will create ideas & innovation, with large number of enrolment, Regiment/ Units will get maximum number of sportsmen, technically sound individuals for example (mechanics, drivers, technician etc) and also individuals from NCC backgrounds which will directly improve the overall output of the Regiment, those 75% trained and disciplined soldier after their 04 years of service will be in each and every corner of the country which will help in decreasing the crime ratio from the society. At last in my opinion, I can say that these 04 years will be a challenge for unit and for an Agniveer. Individuals will face number of challenges for example the criteria to get selected in 25 % consist of many factors, which are Willingness/ Unwillingness, Medical Criteria, Gallantry Award Winner, Overweight person and Discipline Criteria which include are Red/ Black ink entry, Discipline Cases, Vigilance Cases and Criminal Cases Now its duty and responsibility of units to make those Agniveer understand that, “Be proud to be an Indian Make India proud to be you”.
Ideas, Opinions and Views expressed in articles are Writer’s own and may not be in accord with those of SUBAH KASHMIR