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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh announcing the rollout of the ‘Agnipath’ scheme on Tuesday.SHIV KUMAR PUSHPAKAR

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday announced the ‘Agnipath’ scheme for recruitment of youth in the armed forces for four years. The process of recruitment will commence in 90 days with a planned intake of 46,000 young men and women this year. This will be the only form of recruitment of soldiers into the three defence services from now.

Mr. Singh said the scheme was aimed at strengthening national security and for providing an opportunity to the youth to serve in the armed forces. Recruits under the scheme will be known as Agniveers . After completing the four-year service, they can apply for regular employment in the armed forces. They may be given priority over others for various jobs in other government departments.

The move is expected to decrease the average age profile of armed forces personnel from the current 32 to 24-26 years over a period of time, Lieutenant-General Anil Puri, Additional Secretary, Department of Military Affairs, said.

Enrolment to all three services will be through a centralised online system, with special rallies and campus interviews at recognised technical institutes such as the Industrial Training Institutes, and the National Skills Qualifications Framework, Lt. Gen. Puri said. Recruitment will be carried out on an “All India All Class” basis with the eligibility age ranging from 17.5 to 21, with medical and physical fitness standards in accordance with existing norms. The required educational qualification will be Class 10 or 12.

The Agniveers will receive an annual package of Rs. 4.76 lakh in the first year to Rs. 6.92 lakh in the fourth year, apart from risk and hardship and other allowances as applicable. Under the ‘Seva Nidhi’ package, they will receive about Rs. 11.71 lakh, including contribution and interest, on completion of service. The recruits will have to contribute 30% of their monthly emoluments to Seva Nidhi, with a matching contribution made by the government. There will be no entitlement to gratuity and pension benefits under the scheme. However, the ‘Agniveers’ will be provided a non-contributory life insurance cover of Rs. 48 lakh during their service.

In case of death attributable to service, apart from over Rs. 1 crore, which will include the ‘Seva Nidhi’ package, full pay for the unserved period will be given. In the case of disability attributable to service, a provision of up to Rs. 44 lakh based on the percentage of disability, apart from full pay for the unserved period, including ‘Seva Nidhi’ with interest as applicable, has been made.

Total budget allocation for defence for 2022-23 is Rs. 5.25 lakh crore, of which revenue allocation is Rs. 2.33 lakh crore, capital allocation is Rs. 1.52 lakh crore, and defence pensions add up to Rs. 1.19 lakh crore.

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