During the political-cum-media blitz to launch the  Agnipath scheme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Union Home Minister Amit Shah made tall claims on June 18, 2022, that Agniveers released after short tenures in the Armed Forces would be accommodated in various central government jobs (police, CAPF included) plus in corporate and private sectors. Lists of vacancies reserved for ex-servicemen (ESM) were liberally circulated on social media. This was after violent protests by youth hopeful to join the military as regulars.     

On July 22, 2022, Ajay Bhatt, Minister of State for Defence informed Parliament that the number of ESM inducted into central government jobs has drastically decreased from 10,982 in 2015 to 2,983 in 2021. So much for the talk about reserved vacancies for ESM and actually employing them. The above announcements made by Rajnath and Amit Shah will meet the same fate – high on rhetoric with little execution.

A former Director General Resettlement, who worked directly under the Ministry of Defence, says: less said the better on the issue of former military personnel moving laterally after retirement/tenure completion; politicians resort to this, not for welfare, but for political gains, and; politicians grant Rupees one crore to family of anyone who meets untimely death due to any reason – shouldn’t a soldier, who is brutally murdered (not killed by terrorists) get the same compensation?

Agnipath is about saving expenditure on defence pensions and the raging unemployment in the country, even though Rajnath denies it is about money. Ironically, even replying to Parliament and RTI questions, the government shows defence pensions as one entity; deliberately hiding how much is the expenditure on civilian-defence employees. Former DG BSF Prakash Singh has suggested that Agnipath should be applied to All India Services like the IAS, IPS etc. Will the government apply this scheme to civilian defence employees and CAPF who serve till 60 years of age?

Amit Shah tweeted on June 14: “The basis of new India is its youth power… PM Modi Ji’s directive to recruit 10 lakhs in a mission mode in all government departments and ministries in 1.5 years will bring new hope and confidence among the youth…”  Definitely this is a good move by the Prime Minister but it does raise two questions; one, why were these vacancies lying vacant all these months/years, and: two, is this move because of the general elections in 2024?

The stark reality is that unemployment is increasing by the day with the United Nations ‘World Population Prospects’ released in July 2022 stating that our population will overtake China’s in 2023 to become the most populous country in the world.  Also in 2050, India is projected to have a population of 1.66 billion – far beyond China’s 1.31 billion in that year. According to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE), India’s unemployment rate in June 2022 spiked to 7.8% from 7.12% in May 2022. While urban unemployment declined from 8.21% in May to 7.30% in June, rural unemployment rose significantly to 8.03% in June 2022 from 6.62% in May 2022.

The above makes it clear that unemployment will keep increasing with rapid population growth no matter what firefighting the government does through various schemes; whether these are implemented in full or not.  Why then is the government not enforcing strict population control? Is it because votes matter over everything else?

Prime Minister Naredra Modi is a good orator and spoke a lot about development while addressing the nation on August 15. Though he has consciously not taken any press conference in India since becoming prime minister in May 2014, are his advisors keeping him in the dark about ground realities?   According to the last Human Development Report by the United Nations, India ranked 131st in the Human Development Index (HDI) with a score of 0.645. Also, India ranked 101 out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index; going down from 94th position in 2020.

In India, 44% of children under the age of five are underweight, 72% of infants and 52% of married women have anemia. Research has conclusively shown that malnutrition during pregnancy causes the child to have an increased risk of future diseases, physical retardation, and reduced cognitive abilities. Calling the UN calculations flawed or that 5G is reaching rural areas is no consolation to the poor and hungry. ‘Har Ghar Tiranga’ is a good campaign that brings to the fore nationalism even though the motive may be more to foment political fervour. But how about following it up with the campaign ‘Koi Na Rahe Bhooka Nanga’, which actually should have been launched much earlier? 

Modi has raised calls against ‘Parivarvad’ and ‘Bhatijavad’, both of which in some measure also apply to the ruling political party. But what about ‘Babuvad’ which is increasing by the day and holding the government to ransom? The government has been going hammer and tong against the Armed Forces on behalf of the bureaucracy-centred ‘deep state’ but what about the bureaucracy itself?

Agnipath is to save pension money but then each Service will be spending over Rs 4 crore for each Agniveer’s four-year tenure – cumulatively Rs 1,80,000 crore by the military for 45,000 Agniverers who are to be inducted annually. The cadre of Defence Estates, which were to be disbanded according to a study done by the previous government, has been expanded and upgraded with enhanced powers to usurp military land and bring cantonments under municipal control.

The digitized SPARSH pension scheme has been thrust down on pensioners on the plank that it would save money. This despite the huge problems it will create for Veer Naris and pensioners who are not tech savvy. However, according to some assessments, the overall government expenditure for operating SPARSH will be more than what the government wants to save. The main beneficiary will be ‘Babuvad’ with the initial expansion of the PCDA slated to increase by a staff of 160.        

Another example of ‘Babuvad’ can be seen from the data given below which only covers what is “authorized”. It does not cover the many “unauthorized’ personnel and vehicles attached by these bureaucrats and the expenditure on security personnel (authorized or otherwise), all of which the government never questions or dare not tamper with:

Rooting out corruption in any form is good. But the current drive is perhaps also happening because the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is to evaluate in May 2023 India’s efforts towards enforcement of laws related to black money and terror financing. FATF had previously postponed this on two occasions – reasons are not known and maybe we managed the postponements.

The FATF monitors terror financing but black money/money laundering is for other reasons as well including for electioneering. To this end, going after any level of corruption is good but to portray that everyone in the ruling political party is a Satyavan and Savitri stinks, indicating the whole exercise is political. Also, the Panama Papers published in 2016 created a furore in Pakistan but in India only some selective ED investigations are being conducted at snail’s pace though 500 Indians are involved – some even linked to Dawood Ibrahim.

Finally, speaking from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, Modi said that servility should be rooted out. Why then are we servile to China? We have bartered away control of a thousand square kilometers of territory in Ladakh to China in exchange for “Peace at Any Cost”, which is utopian considering that China has repeatedly stabbed us in the back. To top this, we have vacated the Kailash Range and Rajnath Singh is going around saying we have not lost even an inch of our territory. Would any other county not try such an individual for sedition? Besides, isn’t it time to call off this nautanki of continuing military-to-military talks with China?

The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.

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