Indian Armed forces had been promoting lateral absorption of the soldiers who retired early at the age of 37-40 years for several decades now. But there was no breakthrough due to several factors including resistance by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Central Police Organisations [CPOs] as this prevented direct recruitment for the Police. Other issues cited wer difference in the terms and type of service in the CPOs and operational and administrative differences as well as culture and ethos.
But the Agniveer scheme which results in 75 % of the recruits leaving the armed forces seems to have led to acceptance of lateral absorption by the Ministry of Home Affairs and CPOs.
This could be due to younger Agniveers who will be at an age below 25 years and not ingrained with the military ethos of those who have spent their best years of 15 to 18 years in service uniform or the political directions thereof.
In an attempt to prevent a rise in resistance after the scheme was announced in June last year, the government announced 10% reservation for ex-Agniveers in Central Armed Paramilitary Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles now has been gazetted.
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Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has notified relaxation in the upper age limit by up to five years for the first batch for recruitment in the Border Security Force (BSF) as per multiple media sources. “The upper age limit shall be relaxable up to five years for the candidates of the first batch of ex-Agniveers. Ten percent of the vacancies shall be reserved for ex-Agniveers,” as per a notification published by the MHA reported by the Hindustan Times.
Subsequently for ex-Agniveers, the upper age limit will be relaxable by up to three years and, “Ex-Agniveers will be exempted from physical efficiency test,” said the report.
In terms of the BSF, General Duty Cadre (Non- Gazetted) Recruitment Rules, 2015, with effect from March 9, the Centre announced that against the part relating to the post of constable, notes shall be inserted relaxing the upper age limit for ex-Agniveers by up to five years for candidates belonging to the maiden batch of ex-Agniveers and up to three years in case of all other batches of ex-Agniveers.
Another note added in the Border Security Force, General Duty Cadre (Non-Gazetted) (Amendment) Recruitment Rules, 2023, provides for exemption of ex-Agniveers from taking the physical proficiency test.
This comes as it is believed that at least 2,184 ex-Agniveers could be recruited each year under the 10% quota announced by the government in six paramilitary forces based on the 21, 847 average recruitment carried out by these in the past five years as per the Hindustan Times.
The six forces analysed were Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, Central Industrial Security Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sahastra Seema Bal, and Assam Rifles reports the HT.
Six new ITBP battalions comprising 9,400 personnel are being raised. Some Agniveers could be absorbed in these units.
The assessment is that this will imply 611 to BSF, 545 to CISF, 353 to CRPF, 347 to SSB, 177 to ARs and 151 to ITBP but is only an assessment by the Hindustan Times.
The review of the approach to lateral absorption has possibly been as an appreciation that the fundamental reason underlying violent protests by army aspirants over Union government’s Agnipath scheme to recruit personnel below officer rank into the military for four years was lack of an assured employment to the demobilized Agniveers.
Given the extended negative implications politically as well the government appears to be amenable for lateral transfer of the Agniveers in the CPO and the scheme has received traction.
In addition, a number of private organisations have assured absorption of Agniveers so that the large number leaving will also be taken care of.
Importantly there could be another challenge that may emerge on the quality of Agniveers who may opt to continue with the military and those who opt out.
As less intensive options seem to be available for the 75 % who leave after four years, the best may in fact seek to leave rather than the hard slog on the land frontiers in store if they continue particularly in the Indian Army.