Defence Minister of India, Rajnath Singh, it is a ‘transformative reform to enhance the combat potential of the Armed Forces with a younger profile and technologically-adept soldiers’. But is it for the Gorkhas?
AGNIPATH Scheme of the Indian Armed Forces (army, airforce, navy) is a scheme wherein selected candidates will be enrolled as Agniveers for four years period. The scheme provides an avenue to Indian youth, desirous of serving the country to get recruited in the Armed Forces for a short duration, becoming an alternative framework for soldier/ jawan level mechanization.
The scheme envisages:
● the youth to serve in the military for short duration
● youthful and technically adept war fighting force
● youthful profile of the army
● attract young talent
● Best of the best recruited further (only 25%)
● develop ethos, courage, camaraderie, commitment and teamwork in the youth
● build abilities and qualities such as discipline, dynamism, motivation and work-skills
● allocation of more budget to the Research and Development, and other sectosr of the military forces and thereby cutting down on salary and pensions
● induction of women as Agniveers\
Although with this transformative setup, few visible contentions seem to appear .
● With employment duration of just 4 years, the uncertainty of the future prevails with no job security
● Only 25% of the candidates will be made permanent after the training period and the other 75% will have to leave the job.
● There will no pension for the candidate appointed during the Agneepath Scheme 2022. There will no extra or basic benefits will be provided to the candidate alike the other government jobs.
● The selected candidates will be recruited for the non-commissioned ranks only such as Sepoy, Naik, and Lance Naik.
● This recruitment is only for 17.5-21 years of candidates.
● Impoverishment in bondings of brotherhood, regimental loyalty and patriotism creating unhealthy competition
● The transparency regarding the further selection of 25% soldiers.
The Indian Army recruits Gorkhas for its Gorkha regiments from different parts of Nepal. Most Gorkha regiments possess a mix of Indian (Indian Domicile Gorkhas- IDG) and Nepali (Nepali Domicile Gorkhas) in the ratio of 30:70. With such extensive amalgamation, the military wing of the Indian embassy in Kathmandu is largely responsible for all aspects concerning Indian Army veterans in Nepal. The army veteran community in Nepal has close linkages with their Indian regiments and are locally influential.
At the time of Independence in 1947, a tripartite Agreement between the United Kingdom, India and Nepal was signed concerning the rights of Gurkhas recruited in armed forces of the United Kingdom and India. It signified the ‘Non-Mercenary’ treatment of the Nepalese Gorkhas. In current situation, with no consultation with the Nepal Government for the applicability of this scheme on NDGs, it assumes to be a breach and again raises eyebrows between the relationship of the two nations as reported by Nepal govt halts army hiring of Gorkhas; Agnipath scheme (The Telegraph).
Gorkhas, Indians or Nepalese have proved their loyalty towards India evidently in the wars of Indo-Pakistan and Indo-China, where post the 1962 conflict, China too claimed and requested Nepal for ‘Gurkha Soldiers’ to serve in the PLA, but Nepal once again, did not give assent. However, this roadway seems to dwindle. According to report by The Shillong Times, China funds study on Nepal youth joining Indian Army’s Gorkha regiment in 2020 reiterating the importance of the stratergic location of Nepal with Gorkha soldiers at the core of it. Nepal also has been receiving its fair share of military assistance from China, such as the NPR 2.5 billion (RMB 150 million) pledge in 2018 for building a new kind of security partnership. This tug of war has always been omnipresent and Agnipath Scheme could be the deciding factor.
Salaries and pensions of Indian Army Gorkha veterans are a major source of revenue for rural Nepal. Indian Gorkhas contribute 3 per cent to the Nepalese GDP. A major reason for Nepal hesitating to permit recruitment in the Agnipath scheme is similar to what has been raised by many in India. It is the future of the soldier post his disembodied after four years. Currently, soldiers retire after a minimum 15 years’ service and are granted a lifelong pension alongside medical benefits, all of which will be denied to Agniveers. With such economic change, social, cultural, political alterations will not have a positive dynamics between the kins even hindering the goodwill of both the countries, holding the future of laures (terminology specific to Gorkha soldiers) in dilemma.
For Gorkhas, army is just not a profession but a way of life, lived through many generations. The real impact could only be assessed after the completion of the 4 year tenure. With clear discussion between the countries, precise and careful analysis of the conditions with economic, social, brotherhood, cultural perspective would create an optimum solution which is a win-win for all, with Gorkhas being the pivot of the solution for their motto is “Kayar Hunu Bhanda Marnu Ramro” (Better to die than live like a coward).
1. Agnipath Yojana. (2022, June 24). MyGov.in. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.mygov.in/campaigns/agniveer/
2. Agnipath scheme: Nepal govt halts army hiring of Gorkhas. (2022, August 25). The Telegraph India. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.telegraphindia.com/india/nepal-government-halts-army-hiring-of-gorkhas/cid/1882451
3. China funds study on Nepal youth joining Indian Army’s Gorkha regiment. (2020, August 17). The Shillong Times. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://theshillongtimes.com/2020/08/18/china-funds-study-on-nepal-youth-joining-indian-armys-gorkha-regiment/
4. The Gorkha Rifles of the Indian Army: 200 years of gallantry. (2022, January 20). Financial Express. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.financialexpress.com/defence/the-gorkha-rifles-of-the-indian-army-200-years-of-gallantry/2411630/
5. Is the recruitment of Nepali soldiers under the Agneepath scheme feasible? (2022, August). ORF. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.orfonline.org/expert-speak/is-the-recruitment-of-nepali-soldiers-under-the-agneepath-scheme-feasible/?amp
6. Kakar, M. G. H. (2022, September 3). Why India can’t let inimical forces in Nepal stop Gurkhas from joining Indian Army over Agnipath. Firstpost. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://www.firstpost.com/opinion-news-expert-views-news-analysis-firstpost-viewpoint/why-india-cant-let-inimical-forces-in-nepal-stop-gorkhas-from-joining-indian-army-over-agnipath-11171721.html
7. Panag, G. L. H. S. (2022, September 9). Why Nepalese Gorkha recruits deserve better than Agnipath scheme. ThePrint. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://theprint.in/the-fineprint/why-nepalese-gorkha-recruits-deserve-better-than-agnipath-scheme/1120433/
8. Gupta, J. P. N. (2022, June 29). Agnipath scheme is a smart move but it cannot be the solution to India’s unemployment problem. ThePrint. Retrieved October 15, 2022, from https://theprint.in/campus-voice/agnipath-scheme-is-a-smart-move-but-it-cannot-be-the-solution-to-indias-unemployment-problem/1015537/
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