The Agnipath Yojana : Deify or demonise?

Paojakhup Guite
Contd from previous issue
The suspicion behind the new recruitment system is of cost cutting, that is, a fiscal burden on pension and salary bills. This expenditure cutting on the tri-services of the country can be done best by creating flexible labour markets i.e., conctractualisation. With this market mechanism, an employee can be freely hired and fired on the whims and fancies of the market.
According to market based economists, workers can be thrown out when firms are not profitable and also bring them in when firms are profitable. This contractualisation-induced flexibility is harmful to the job prospects- no decent job can be provided- and, rather destroys the spirit of work culture.
Lacking the welfare or socialist approach of the founding fathers of Independent India, the Modi Government is more inclined to market economy. In this effect, the Government has initiated changes to labour laws.
These changes bring about sufficient flexibility only to weaken trade unions and association formations, which otherwise they would have provided some bargaining chips for workers. Another consequence of new labour codes is the steep decline in wages between 2011-12 and 2017-18. This deduction technique in wages is applied on the cost cutting of military forces, hence Agnipath.
The Gender Lens of Agnipath
The new recruitment system to the military forces is meant both for male and female alike of same age group. As much as it is detrimental to male aspirants so is to females. The scheme is a huge blow to the female labour force participation. Under the scheme, at least some of the Agniveer women will be back to the household chores within the four-sided walls of the house.
Stereotypical feminity is in the offing as far as protest against Agnipath is concerned. Everyone is appalled at finding not a single woman involved in both State- and Nation-wide strikes for a rollback of the scheme. They were conspicuous of their total absence in the protests.
This does not mean that they have jobs, or that they are not looking for jobs. Rather, their ability to protest is limited by society. While it is the sole onus of the Government to arrest the ever increasing gap of employment between male and female on one hand and the absolute female labour market participation rate on the other hand, the Government has introduced a scheme like Agnipath which would allegedly lessen employment prospects of women all the more.
Skill development has become a cliché. We have enough number of educated unemployed, so producing more skilled workers is not the remedy for the malady. More emphasis has to be put in place on Output production. For this more industries, more agricultural goods and more services have to be incentivised in the economy. Labour-intensive sectors have to be ventured upon.
Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha,Mallikarjun Kharge cautioned the Government not to play with fire. National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval warned the disgruntled youth to raise their voice but not violence. The ambitious young Indians who have been aspiring to serve the Nation in the line of defence should not be disheartened. They still have a chance of 4 to fifteen years to serve the country. The 75 per cent Agniveers who get decommissioned after a four-year stint in the Agnipath may be looking forward to start-ups or entrepreneurship with whatever amount of money they are exiting the Agnipath scheme.

(The writer is pursuing an MA in Media Studies at the University of Hyderabad and is currently doing his internship with the Imphal Review of Arts and Politics. He may be reached at [email protected])