Skip to main content

Previous govts' 'neo-liberal' initiative result: Agnipath contractual-soldier scheme

By Prem Singh* 

The Agnipath recruitment scheme is a contractual-soldier scheme. That is, a youth of 17 to 21 years of age will be recruited in the three armies on a contract for four years term. They will not be entitled to the facilities and social security available to the regular soldiers till now.
The concessions being talked about after massive, and widespread violent protests against the scheme are the government's after-thought. How long this after-thought will last cannot be said.
The country has had a long experience in the last 20-25 years of what kind of contractual appointments are being made. Meanwhile, governments of all parties have remained in power. So, there is no need to go into that political detail. The need is to see that when people are working on contractual basis in every field, including education, health and sanitation, the turn of the army was simply bound to come one day.
The opposition to the Agnipath recruitment scheme by the aspirants is understandable. But what is the basis of opposition from opposition leaders, intellectuals and civil society activists? Contracting in appointments is a direct product of neo-liberal reforms and can be found everywhere.
Two days ago, a journalist friend entrusted me with the task of writing an article on contract-teaching. I sent the article to him the very next day, mentioning the prevalence of contract-teaching from the primary schools to the colleges all over the country. Having been associated with the education field I did not face any difficulty in preparing the article. All the details are, in any case, available to all public.
Have these very people, opposed to contract recruitment in the armies now, ever been opposed to neo-liberal reforms? If so, how did contractual appointments replace permanent appointments on such a large scale across the country in all the departments?
If it is to be assumed that they had no apprehension that the matter would reach the contractual appointments in the armed forces, would they now fully oppose this anti-constitutional practice? That is, will the neo-liberal or corporate capitalist government policies continuing in the name of reforms, be opposed by them?
If they do not stop this neo-imperialist onslaught that has been going on in the country for the last three decades, then the army cannot be saved from its shackles. If they don't take a position on this, then on what basis are they advising the youth who are agitating against the scheme to beware of 'fake nationalists'?
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, his patriarchal organization and his 'navratnas' have strange ideas about the army, like -- merchants face more danger than soldiers, the RSS army will reach the front against the enemy before India's army and achieve victory, to thwart enemy ambushes bunkers should be covered with cow dung, soldiers should regularly recite Gita-Ramayana to maintain valor instead of training and practice, to give a befitting reply to the enemy one should have a chest of so many inches, to avenge so many heads one should bring so many heads of enemy, India has become great and superpower in the reign of RSS/BJP, now no one can stop it from realizing the dream of 'Akhand Bharat'... so on and so forth!
It would be a futile exercise to expect any serious discourse or initiative about army, valour and war from such perspective.
But what about the senior most officers in the army? It is right that in a democracy, the army works under the civilian government. It is the pride of the army in upholding this constitutional obligation. However, on important and delicate issues that appear from time to time before the society at least retired military officers should direct the nation in their discretion.
The government has put forward senior army officers to lobby for the Agnipath recruitment scheme. There is certainly an emotional weight to this strategy. The chiefs of the three armies have announced the quick-start of the Agnipath recruitment scheme despite all the opposition. It has also been made clear that the youth involved in violent activities during the protests against the scheme will not be given an opportunity to become Agniveers.
Describing it as a well-thought-out scheme prepared by the military officers after due deliberations, they have argued for the inclusion of youthful enthusiasm in the army. It would have been better if this well thought out scheme had been placed in the public domain at least for a little time. Then, there might not have been a case of large scale violent resistance to the scheme.
The varied interpretations and assurances coming forth through various official-non-official channels regarding the scheme should have been made public before its launch. It seems that even the 'well thought out scheme' propagation is an after-thought on the part of its mentors.
Here the question may arise that if youthful enthusiasm in the armies is so important that it requires new blood after every four years, as the three army chiefs and some other senior army officers are saying, then this enthusiasm should also be inculcated in the bureaucracy of the army as well.
The senior officers of the armies have achieved everything as far as name, fame, facilities and comforts are concerned. They should take leave now and let the new officers take their place.
The new officers must have acquired the training and skills of highest degree under their capable command to handle every necessary responsibility. Otherwise also, certain important posts would be waiting for senior military officers after retirement. Corporate houses can also be a good place for them in corporate India!
Doing justice to the military officers, it can be assumed that by insisting on this scheme, they are simply not following the orders of the elected government, they too have their own support for the scheme.
The way the political and intellectual leadership of the country is supportive of neo-liberalism, it is natural to have an impact on the military leadership as well. Just as civil officers, who have gained their power and position under the old system of recruitment, might not see the pain of young and middle-aged people engaged in contractual jobs, military officers may also feel that even the military task can be done without permanent recruitments (and facilities associated with them).
Tre-services Lt Gen Anil Puri, who is the additional secretary in the Department of Military Affairs, has solemnly stated that they have spoken to the Adanis, Ambanis and other corporate houses that they will employ Agniveers. A BJP leader has stated that they will be engaged in BJP offices as guards. That is, the young blood of the country is such a cheap thing, that anyone can use it for any assignment, and throw it away after a certain time.
I do not know what to say to the youth agitating against the Agnipath recruitment scheme. I feel that the people of my present and earlier generations are their culprits. All that can be said is that their movement could be right, violence is not.
Many youth activists have referred to the farmers' movement. I feel that their position is not such that they can create another long movement in present circumstances. They have to understand that the neo-liberals harvested away even the crops of the peasant movement. The activists against whom cases were filed during the farmers movement have not been taken back yet.
I would say to the young recruitment hopefuls to remember that they are young but not naive. The government has set up the army before them, which mandates that every aspirant must give in writing that they did not engage in violent resistance to the scheme. Cases have been registered against many of them.
Those who refer to them as 'our children' as well as those who oppose the Agnipath scheme and are claiming to support them, do not seem to be their future companions. The future and their careers are a subject about which they themselves have to contemplate and worry .
---
*Associated with socialist movement, former teacher of Delhi University and fellow of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla

Comments

TRENDING

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.

Savarkar 'criminally betrayed' Netaji and his INA by siding with the British rulers

By Shamsul Islam* RSS-BJP rulers of India have been trying to show off as great fans of Netaji. But Indians must know what role ideological parents of today's RSS/BJP played against Netaji and Indian National Army (INA). The Hindu Mahasabha and RSS which always had prominent lawyers on their rolls made no attempt to defend the INA accused at Red Fort trials.

How lead petitioner was rendered homeless when GM mustard matter came up in SC

By Rosamma Thomas*  On January 5, 2023, the Supreme Court stayed a December 20, 2022 direction of the Uttarakhand High Court to the Indian Railways and the district administration of Haldwani to use paramilitary forces to evict thousands of poor families occupying land that belonged to the railways.  Justice AS Oka remarked that it was not right to order the bringing in of paramilitary forces. The SC held that even those who had no rights, but were living there for years, needed to be rehabilitated. On December 21, 2022, just as she was getting ready to celebrate Christmas, researcher Aruna Rodrigues was abruptly evicted from her home in Mhow Cantonment, Madhya Pradesh – no eviction notice was served, and nearly 30 Indian Army soldiers bearing arms were part of the eviction process. What is noteworthy in this case is that the records establishing possession of the house date back to 1892 – the title deed with the name of Dr VP Cardoza, Rodrigues’ great grandfather, is dated November 14

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

Tax buoyancy claims when less than 4% Indian dollar millionaires pay income tax

By Prasanna Mohanty  In FY18, the last year for which disaggregated income tax data is available, only 29,002 ITRs declared income above Rs 5 crore, while Credit Suisse said India had 7.25 lakh dollar millionaires (the wealth equivalent of Rs 8 crore and above) that year. Often enough, the Centre claims that demonetization in 2016 raised tax collections, improved tax efficiency, and expanded the tax base. Now RBI Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) member Ashima Goyal has also joined their ranks, attributing the “claims” of rising tax collections in the current fiscal year to “tax buoyancy” brought by the demonetisation . Do such claims have any basis in official records? The answer is unequivocal. The budget documents show the tax-to-GDP ratio (direct plus indirect tax) increased from 10.6% in FY16 (pre-demonetization) to 11.2% in FY17, remained there in FY18 (demonetization and GST fiscals), and then fell to 9.9% in FY20. In FY22, it improved to 10.8% and is estimated to drop to 10.7% in

Gandhian unease at Mahadev Desai book launch: Sabarmati Ashram may lose free space

By Rajiv Shah  A simmering apprehension has gripped the Gandhians who continue to be trustees of the Sabarmati Ashram: the “limited freedom” to express one’s views under the Modi dispensation still available at the place which Mahatma Gandhi made his home from 1917 to 1930 may soon be taken away. Also known as Harijan Ashram, a meeting held for introducing yet-to-be-released book, “Mahadev Desai: Mahatma Gandhi's Frontline Reporter”, saw speaker and after speaker point towards “narrowing space” in Gujarat for Gandhians (as also others) to express themselves. Penned by veteran journalist Nachiketa Desai, grandson of Mahadev Desai, while the book was planned to be released on January 1 and the meeting saw several prominent personalities, including actor-director Nandita Das, her scholar-mother Varsha Das, British House of Lords member Bhikhu Parekh, among others, speak glowingly about the effort put in for bringing out the book, exchanges between speakers suggested it should be rele

Why no information with Assam state agency about female rhino poaching for a year?

By Nava Thakuria   According to official claims, incidents of poaching related to rhinoceros in various forest reserves of Assam in northeast India have decreased drastically. Brutal laws against the poachers, strengthening of ground staff inside the protected forest areas and increasing public awareness in the fringe localities of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the State are the reasons cited for positively impacting the mission to save the one-horned rhinos. Officials records suggest, only two rhinos were poached in Kaziranga National Park and Tiger Reserve since 1 January 2021 till date. The last incident took place probably in the last week of December 2021, as a decomposed carcass of a fully-grown (around 30 years old) female rhino was recovered inside the world-famous forest reserve next month. As the precious horn was missing, for which the gigantic animal was apparently hunted down, it could not be a natural death. Ironically, however, it was not confirmed when

Civil rights leaders allege corporate loot of resources, suppression of democratic rights

By Our Representative  Civil rights activists have alleged, quoting top intelligence officers as also multiple international forensic reports, that recent developments with regard to the Bhima Koregaon and the Citizenship Amendment Act-National Register of Citizens (CAA-NRC) cases suggest, there was "no connection between the Elgaar Parishad event and the Bhima Koregaon violence." Activists of the Campaign Against State Repression (CASR) told a media event at the HKS Surjeet Bhawan, New Delhi, that, despite this, several political prisoners continue to be behind bars on being accused under the anti-terror the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. Addressed by family members of the political prisoners, academics, as well as social activists, it was highlighted how cases were sought to be fabricated against progressive individuals, democratic activists and intellectuals, who spoke out against "corporate loot of Indian resources, suppression of basic democratic

Kerala natural rubber producers 'squeezed', attend to their plight: Govt of India told

By Rosamma Thomas   Babu Joseph, general secretary of the National Federation of Rubber Producers Societies (NFRPS) at a recent discussion at Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam, explained that it is high time the Union government paid greater heed to the troubles plaguing the rubber production sector in India – rubber is a strategic product, important for the military establishment and for industry, since natural rubber is still used in the manufacture of tyres for large vehicles and aeroplanes. Synthetic rubber is now quite widespread, but styrene, which is used in making synthetic rubber and plastics, and also butadiene, another major constituent of synthetic rubber, are both hazardous. Prolonged exposure to these even in recycled rubber can cause neurological damage. Kerala produces the bulk of India’s natural rubber. In 2019-20, Kerala’s share in the national production of rubber was over 74%. Over 20% of the gross cropped area in the state is under rubber cultivation, with total

Bangladesh 'rights violations': US softens stance, fears increased clout of China, India

By Tilottama Rani Charulata*  In December 2021, in addition to the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), the United States imposed sanctions on seven former and current officers of the force, alleging serious human rights violations. Benazir Ahmed and former RAB-7 commander Miftah Uddin Ahmed were banned from entering the US. RAB as an institution was also canceled the support it was getting from the US and its allies. At the same time, those under the ban have been notified of confiscation of assets held abroad. The anti-crime and anti-terrorism unit of the Bangladesh Police, RAB is the elite force consisting of members of the Bangladesh Army, Bangladesh Police, Bangladesh Navy, Bangladesh Air Force, Border Guard Bangladesh, Bangladesh Civil Service and Bangladesh Ansar, and has been criticized by rights groups for its use of extrajudicial killings and is accused of forced disappearances. The government of Bangladesh has been insisting about lifting the ban on RAB, but the US had till recen