Amid apprehensions that the newly launched Agnipath military recruitment scheme would change composition of several regiments that recruit youths from specific regions as well as castes, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Tuesday said the regimental system will remain untouched under the scheme.
"The concept of regiments, nobody is tinkering with it. If there are regiments, then there will be regiments of artillery, electrical or mechanical engineers or mechanical engineers. They (regiments) will continue... The regimental system has not ended," said Doval, in an exclusive interview with ANI.
Going back to the history of the regimental system in the country, Doval said, "There is confusion among some sections of people about some units of infantry. There are only a few caste-based regiments left, only two or three and this is a colonial legacy. Britishers wanted that nothing should be pan-India. They wanted to divide the people into sections so that they represent particular areas or sects so that there is no national perspective left among the soldiers, otherwise, there would have been a threat to their colonial empire."
The Union Cabinet on June 14 approved the short-term recruitment scheme 'Agnipath' for Indian youth who will serve for four years in the three services and those selected under this scheme will be known as 'Agniveers'.
Protests erupted in states including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand and Assam.
Amid protests, the Army, Navy and the Air Force on Sunday came out with a broad schedule for recruitment of soldiers under the Agnipath scheme while asserting that it is being implemented to bring down the age profile of the armed forces.
Addressing a Tri-Service press conference on Sunday, Lt General Anil Puri informed that 'Agnipath' is a long pending reform which was even recommended by the Kargil Review Committee. He further mentioned that the recruitment of soldiers under the scheme will increase to over 1.25 lakh in the next 4-5 years.
All three previous heads of Defence forces along with the former Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) worked for two years on the scheme. They analyzed meticulous details of the scheme, the top military officer said.
Allaying the fears of the aspirants regarding the Agnipath scheme, Doval said that the youth have a fear of the unknown, adding that "misunderstandings are created-- may be deliberately or lack of understanding."
"Reforms are needed for a better future. We are a young nation with the oldest army. When PM Modi came to power in 2014, one of his prime priorities was how to make India secure and strong. That required many avenues, many steps - multitude of them," Ajit Doval added.
By December first week, the Indian Army is scheduled to get the first batch of 25,000 'Agniveers' and the second batch would be inducted around February next year making it 40,000, Lt Gen Bansi Ponappa said while addressing the Tri-service presser.
Ruling out rollback of Agnipath scheme for recruitment in armed forces, National Security Advisor of India Ajit Doval said that the government's move was "not a knee-jerk reaction that has come overnight" but has been debated and discussed for over decades.
"There is no question of any rollback (of the Agnipath scheme). Let me tell you one thing. This is not a knee-jerk reaction that has come overnight. This has been debated and discussed for over decades," he added.