With Service Chiefs briefing PM today on “progress” of ToD, its execution will naturally be accelerated. Interestingly, humour and theories abound amid the chaos. One view is that some policy-makers, habitually on Blue Label, drinking toddy to become Atmanirbhar, discussed the origin of fire-walking in India in 1200 BCE, which led to the name ‘Agniveer’. They also deliberated upon flesh-eating Aghoris, whose central home in India is Varanasi, and wondered if prospective Agniveers trained by Aghoris would chew the PLA down to the bone; enhancing the military’s combat capability enormously.
Army’s Vice Chief says by 2032, 50% of the Army will be Agniveers. However, considering that instead of the ToD experiment with 100 officers and 1000 soldiers projected by the Army, 46,000 are being pushed through in the first go, the 50% could be advanced to 2026-27, the pace picking up after the 2024 elections. The Vice Chief did not acknowledge that ToD will be the ‘only’ avenue for military recruiting.
The next nail in the Army’s coffin is already poised – ‘reservations’. One ass is already braying that unless reservations are enforced in Armed Forces, how will this huge number of ToDs or Toddies get employment elsewhere? But the thought of 50% or more Agniveers is causing tremors in Beijing already. The day is not far, when China will vacate all Indian territories, and seek a no-war pact provided India agrees to not liberate Tibet.
The fallout could be all countries sharing land borders with China adopting the Agniveer concept and Joe Biden asking NATO-West to do similarly to defeat Russia, rather than the much more expensive mercenaries who are a drain on expenses with the recession looming. All this could lead to an ‘International Agniveer Day’, for which India would get plaudits.
Before the ToD announcement was massive propaganda about the bloated defence-pension bill without mentioning that 45% of it goes to civilian-defence personnel and each of the seven lakh serving civilian-defence personnel is 5-times more expensive than the uniformed counterpart. The 50-time more that could be saved from other Group ‘A’ Services and government establishment was naturally never revealed.
With expose of the military targeted exclusively for the defence-pension bill with civilian-defence personnel untouched, Lt Gen Anil Puri from DMA (after the ToD presentation on June 14) told media that ToD is not about saving money but to enhance the combat capability of the forces (sic). By saying so, he conveyed that in the past 75 years, all Army Chiefs and those down the line (including him) were idiots to have recruits training more than six months. If Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman catches on, she could stop all pays and pensions of Army personnel till the monetary damage to the exchequer is retrieved with interest.
Why Puri is showing his colours is obvious. With Lt Gens included in the search for next CDS, he sees himself in that appointment and may have even stitched a new uniform with rank badges worn by the first CDS (which Pakistani media termed ‘band master’) or fashioned his own. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is known to have noticed his blue eyes much before he was pulled into the DMA. But there is a small problem – NSA Ajit Doval reportedly favours veteran Lt Gen Anil Chauhan. So which Anil wins may entail a Clash of the Titans.
There are other hopefuls also. One of them earlier said that PLA took only a “sliver” of our territory in Depsang and that PLA at Y-Junction (19-km inside our territory) is still far rom DBO. But that “sliver” remark may cost him the race to CDS because Rajnath’s line was “not even an inch of territory lost”. Then there are many more veterans vociferously supporting 6-month training for ToD – if not CDS, koi advisory post hi mil jai. However, gong by the trend, the winner will depend on who can bend backwards farthest.
Social media has been discussing CDS since long. RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat’s photo in military uniform has been circulating with his walrus moustache akin to Russia’s Maxim Gorky. This appealed to many who nicknamed him ‘Uncle Wally’. But others feared as CDS he would make moustache compulsory in Armed Forces – something like Taliban making beard compulsory. After all, uniform regulations in the British Army (1886-1916) did stipulate every soldier to grow a moustache. During the Galwan Clash, Bhagwat had said the Army takes six months to mobilize but RSS can do it in three months, which is true not for electioneering only. Witness the ongoing mobilization to propagate and join Agnipath.
Then was the super-CDS, NSA Ajit Doval, the one and only police-NSA of any country in the world, heading multiple powerful organizations and committees, and the PM’s right-hand. Like Nostradamus, he prophesied in 2014 there will be no war and whatever fighting will be done by the police. That is why he has not wasted time scripting a national security strategy for which he was tasked in 2019.
Another theory is that Doval is behind the mass Agniveer push in order to prepare them for Ghazwa-e-Hind. The Ghahzis would piss in their pants if they knew Doval said at Rishikesh sometime back that the battle will be taken to where the threat originates. Launch pads of Pakistani terrorists in POK remain chock-a-block full but where these damn Ghazis are hiding remains unknown.
Many political announcements have been made for post-ToD job reservations by Home Minister Amit Shah and Rajnath. Shah says 10% reservations in CAPF (where they would have to start at the bottom) with what salary and why should they not join police/CAPF directly rather than via ToD? Why doesn’t he order all recruitment in CAPF/police directly with 6-month training? Does he want the Army to train personnel for CAPF – partly realizing the dream of someone who was thrown out of the Indian Military Academy for theft in the first-term, rose as Secretary in the government, and wanted ‘same’ training for the Army and police?
Rajnath has talked of a whole lot of reservations but what will be the job other than security guards and what will be the salary compared to the Rs 28,000 cash-in-hand in fourth year of ToD? News says India Inc is ready to give jobs to ToD discharged but what job and at what salary. No Union Minister will vouch that all personnel after ToD ‘will’ get a job.
Significantly, the 2021 statistics for reserved recruitment of ex-servicemen are: in 13 Banks – 9.1% in Group ‘C’ and 21.34% in Group ‘D’; CAPF/CPMF – 2.2% in Group ‘A’, 0.87% in Group ‘B’, 0.47% in Group ‘C’ and 0% in Group ‘D’; CPSUs (94 of 170) – 4.67% in Group ‘B’, 1.15% in Group ‘C’ and 0.3% in Group ‘D’; Central Government Departments (34 of 77) – 0% in Group ‘B’, 1.29% in Group ‘C’ and 2.56% in Group ‘D’.
So much for the political announcements by Rajnath and Amit Shah for post ToD job reservations – Kal Kisne Dekha? Such political promises are deliberate and false but then shame is alien to politicians.
And, when Army is 50% Agniveers, who will give them jobs? For those without jobs, they can go to Ukraine or wherever they can earn the daily bread for themselves and their dependents. But since they have been “disciplined”, they are not expected to join any radical, insurgent or terrorist organization – sun liya bhai logo.
A BJP leader says Agniveers will serve as security guards in BJP offices – what salary? BJP might as well plan an Agniveer (STF) trained in induction by air, ground and sub-surface to reach every venue in advance where the PM is to go. They should be able to observe and clear the trash lying around. Wasn’t it a shame to see the PM picking up an empty bottle at Pragati Maidan recently?
Now BJP is launching a pan-India national awareness program for Agnipath, which leaves no doubt that the whole exercise, is political and for saving money; although one estimate is minimum Rs 40-lakh expenditure on each Agniveer in his 4-year tenure to the concerned Service.
Army Headquarters in full ‘josh’ has ordered subordinate headquarters to educate everyone on Agnipath. Sub Area Commanders have given an open invitation to all veterans for chai-pakori and the lecture will include the advice Bhains Ke Aage Been Bajane Se Koi Faida Nahin and when Miyan Bibi (Neta-Babu) Raazi Toh Kya Karega Kaazi? Besides, aren’t Rajnath and babus of MoD examples of ToD with 4-year or less tenures?
It is said that 6-month training will produces cannon-fodder for war but look at the brighter side: first, NSA predicts there will be no war, and: second, every ToD-inductee who dies in the 4-year tenure or killed-in-action (KIA), though Anil Puri calls it “sacrifice”, will get Rs one crore. This means Maujan Hi Maujan although Delhi CM Kejriwal also gives Rs one crore to policemen killed in Delhi in a brawl with goons.
Finally, there is no stopping the ToD tsunami – judiciary notwirgstanding. The neta-babu nexus will not even amend the scheme. Scholars like Sushant Sarin are needlessly saying that Agnipath fire could singe India. How can national security be above elections and votes – Agar Ladai Mein Ulta-Seedha Hoga Toh Military Hai Na blame Karne Ke Liye. Aur Internal Blame-Game Ke Liye Opposition Hai Na. And, if the fire comes closer, walk on it and become an Agniveer. The question remaining is who and how many in this government are sold and to whom?
The author is an Indian Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.