For a group of youth hailing from families of ex-servicemen in Prakasam district who had been slogging day in and day out to improve their physical fitness to excel in the army recruitment drive, the announcement of a new scheme, Agnipath, has come as a huge disappointment.
The scheme, introduced by the Centre, to recruit soldiers in the Army, Navy, and Air Force on a four-year short-term contract has received backlash from the aspirants. Candidates are staging protests across the country demanding rollback of the scheme.
“We were looking forward to making a career in the armed forces for a minimum of 15 years. But the new scheme has disappointed us. Four years is too short a period for us to make a mark in the armed forces,” said a group of youth while undergoing a training session here under the watchful eyes of a team of ex-servicemen led by Mr. K Raghava Rao. No recruitment drive had been conducted in the recent past because of COVID-19 pandemic.
A majority of them hail from the drought-prone mandals of Giddalur, Racherla, Kumarole, Cumbum, Bestavaripeta, Ardhaveedu and Markapur. At least one member from their families had been part of the defence forces earlier.
For them, war veteran Nepalli Nageswara Rao, who had taken part in the 1965 Indo-Pak war, is an inspiration.
“It will be difficult to raise a patriotic force with commitment to serve the nation,” felt Mr. Nageswara Rao, now president of the Andhra Pradesh Ex-Servicemen Federation.
“Back then, we were allowed to touch the aircraft only after a rigorous training for over 3-1/2 years. Agniveers(the term to be given to those undergoing the four-year-course) cannot be expected to handle tasks which require expertise,” recalled the retired officer who had provided ground support to Indian Air Force pilots stationed at Agra during the war.
The soldiers used to be exposed to hostile climatic condition for long before they were deployed on the Line of Control(LOC) in Kashmir. But this would not be possible with the new set of Agniveers.
Many of them would not have the required skills to start a business with a lumpsum amount provided once the contract ended, added Association Prakasam district unit president Sriramamurthy. A cream of youth would shy away from the armed forces or Combined Defence Service examinations in the new circumstances, said unit Secretary Venkata Rao.