Agnipath and youths

The genie is let out of the bottle. The pent-up feelings of India’s large army of youths facing serious problems of unemployment are pouring out into the streets while the Modi government is caught unawares. Joblessness is a serious problem that is worsening by the day. Prime Minister Modi’s welfare raj stopped at providing doles to the poor, keeping their mouths shut and turning them into his vote banks. The government’s decision to introduce a new system of temporary recruitments – Agnipath — to the Indian Military came as the last straw on the ailing youths’ back.
The Indian Military has a backlog of over four lakh vacancies remaining unfilled. Recruitments remain mostly stalled in recent years and interviews for induction of lakhs of youths who passed the physical and other tests have been postponed six or more times. Little wonder, then, that the youths who passed these tests formed the vanguard of the current protests. The new plan for recruitment of about 50,000 youths for a short term of four years followed by induction of as many in the second phase, with an age-limit of 21 (or 23) years, meant that most of the job aspirants in the military and those who passed the tests have been edged out. The short-term recruitments have no provision for pension, the main attraction for those who join the services. This was seen as an attempt to play mischief on the future of the youths who would dedicate themselves to the service of protecting the nation and its borders in harsh climatic conditions. Question also arose whether this was part of a larger RSS agenda.
There, however, are the larger issues. The role of the army is getting reduced in the modern styles of warfare, as was evident first in the US-Iraq war in 2003. Missiles fired from the US warships in the sea reached up to Saddam Hussein’s fortress in Baghdad and demolished governmental edifices one after another. The war was won in less than a week, with very little of ‘uniformed’ manpower on the ground. A steady downsizing of military manpower is, thus, well-advised. But, the problem for India now is acute joblessness. The manufacturing sector is down in the dumps. Chinese goods have flooded the markets. Corruption in the bureaucracy and politics throttles the business sector. One has to pay through his nose to get clearances from governmental agencies to start a venture. Instead, those in businesses have made the ‘loot of banks’ their alternative enterprise. These are indisputable facts on the ground. The central government is simply blinking.

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