Reality of Modernisation projects of Indian Army

In a discussion about the introduction of Agniveer,    Colonel Shailendra Singh, Veteran Gunner and Colonel Anil Dhun, who is also a veteran of the Mahar  Regiment have expressed their own views in a media. The transcripted copy is reproduced here.

“I thank you all for taking out your time to be with us for this very important topic. Please keep in mind that neither Mr. Dhun nor I am political. So we will not be able to give you a political angle.

Todays discussion is on Agniveer and since this topic is coming up in social media in a very big way, you all have confusion in your minds, the public has confusion in their minds, the students have the biggest confusion in their minds.

And the topic is Agnipath. Agnipath Scheme, for me, I get goosebumps. As soon as I think of Agnipath Scheme, I get goosebumps because I realize how important my Indian Army and our Defence Forces are.

How much Agnipath is contributing to this important organization, what challenges it is facing, or what are the shortcomings in it. If we evaluate all three things impartially, then I think we will all be very good citizens of the country, soldiers of the country, that yes, we are doing something good for our country. This should not be considered criticism.

I will say who are your best friends who are your best critics. They tell you everything that was good for you. But maybe it was not in your scheme.

I call it challenges in my language. Because Agnipath Scheme is not new for anyone in today’s date. Small modifications are definitely happening.

And I think they should be and will continue to be. Because when a new scheme is implemented in the country, in the army, then it is not perfect in itself. If we understand this responsibly, then you will definitely find that whatever I am saying, it is not criticism.

I am not criticizing it. I am making you aware of it. I am evaluating it and telling you.

It is your own decision what you liked and what you did not like. Agnipath Scheme came to us in June 2022. Why did it come? The biggest thing is why did it come? It came because we had stopped recruitment in the last three years.

This is very bad for the army in itself. If you do not get the same number of people who are retiring every year. In a year, we have about 60,000 to 70,000 soldiers who retire.

If you take the average of three years, it comes to about 2 lakhs. Take 75, take 70, whatever you want. I mean, don’t go on figures, go on quantity.

If we have retired 2 lakh soldiers in three years, but there is no change in it, its implication will not be known after three years. If it had been the fourth year, it would have been the fifth year, now think what would have happened. Second thing, what would you do if there was a fight during this? I have the answer to everything.

If there was a fight, we would have called the reservists, we would have done this, we would have done that. But no. One is the responsibility of a man.

Responsibility with blood, responsibility with mind, responsibility with passion. If you tell me today that I will have the passion to go and fight today, but today the army may not be able to take me. Why? Because of age.

I cannot be deployed everywhere. This shortcoming we had, this shortcoming came because at that time we were considering what should be done. Whether it is any compulsion of the government, but as a soldier, I strongly say that you should not have even a day’s liberty that you stop the recruitment of the army.

This in itself is not a good step for us as an army. It is not a good step. So from there it came that why Agniveer? Agniveer was not a scheme before.

The army that had proposed to us, or the responsibility that the government had given us, it was about what changes could be brought in the army. Under that change, we had thought that we would put a tour of duty. This Agniweer word is not ours.

It is not given by the army. In this, the army had never read it before, nor did it read it during that time. When the government decided, when the government acted, whether it was any government for us, you made an act on our heads and eyes that Agniveer will be there, we started working on it.

What was tour of duty? Tour of duty was in very simple words that you for your country, which was not compulsory, that a start should be made that the children, the youth, if they want to contribute to their country’s defence, defence related, then a chance should be given to them. What are its benefits? It is very simple. The benefit is that a child has passion, he will have discipline, he will be able to see that place for which he had always dreamed, his whole family will be proud of him.

We also thought that the pre-trained children of NCC, who have already trained for 2-3 years, the children who have taken NCC even in school, they should be given one more chance to join the army, 1 year, 2 years, 3 years, whatever is decided, to serve according to that, and go back to your civil stream and those good things that they have learned in the army, they should be brought back to you. That yes, if this culture in society, which is my army culture, that India first, India first, India first in itself, Jai Hind, the slogan of Jai Hind, I say, everything is included in this. The economy is also included, your jobs are included, social structure is included, every item related to society, which is for a non-soldier, that is also included in it.

So the better thing is that this spirit of Jai Hind of our army, because when we used to say Jai Hind, everything used to come in it. So we wanted it to reach you. Here, perhaps, a new challenge came, a disappointment for me, that you gave it a new word, because of political reasons, Agni Path, Agni Veer, to do employment.

That is why you must have seen, a very big controversy started on social media, that General Narvane also said something, someone else said something, etc. We don’t want to get into that, but we definitely have to get into this, that whether this scheme was imposed on us, we took it or what we did. I will not say that we were imposed.

I just explained to you, that in three years, if I had less than 2 lakh soldiers, I was sitting like a hungry person, as a defense, that my deficiency, which has been reduced, has to be made up, has to be made up somehow. That is why you saw that in the first year, we accepted it straight away, that we will take 40,000 people, although it was supposed to be 46,000, versus my wastage rate, which is more than 70,000. This is an imbalance in itself, but at that time, our aim in the army, is never what we have less.

We always see, what we have, how do we work in that. So here we scored, anyone can criticize your criticism, that you took this, why did the army accept it. Army accepts everything, which you decide politically, which you decide as a country, government, we only believe in that.

What is lacking in it, what is more, we do not believe much in it. That is why you see, that there was a controversy on this too, that what should be their salary, 10,000, 20,000, 30,000. It doesn’t matter to us.

Even today, if I say, my salary is less, then it won’t be wrong. My salary is less, compared to those, who have more. But there are many below me, whose salary is less than mine.

So comparing, will be wrong in itself. But at the same time, there is no doubt, that Agni Veer’s salary, came as a shock, when it came, that 20,000 rupees. 20,000 rupees, I think if we google it today, then daily wages, are more than this.

So the biggest thing is, whether Agni Veer, has a good proposal, in himself or not. This is your job, to evaluate, not mine.

Me and my army, evaluate only this, that whether, I will be able to make, those children from you, a good, responsible soldier, and apart from that, a good, responsible, citizen or not. So from there, a new dispute started, that the training time, is less. Well, I also agree, that it is less.

If you say today, that when I left my job, or retired, that time was less, even 30 years was less. But there is a basic, minimum requirement. Why is there a basic, minimum requirement? Because in an army, you don’t have, that you will be deployed in Delhi, only in Hyderabad, or somewhere else.

We have a very different, variety of terrain. If we talk about borders, we have a border, where there is only water, a border, where there is only sky, a border, which we call Pakistan, a new border, where we have China, in those borders, there are plains, mountains, and high altitudes. For all of these, no man, can be ready in one day, two days, or four months.

This is for sure. You can be passionate, but you can’t be ready. So there started this controversy, that is the training period, less or more.

The army was, and will be, that the training period is less. But this doesn’t mean, that we as soldiers, in this short training period, will be able to create a man, and make him a soldier or not. You have to see the balance of both.

The training period is less, 100% less. Why? Because the service period, is less. That’s why the training period will be less.

If I give you an example, evaluate it well, and see. A short service commission, an officer, trains for 10 months. An IMA officer, trains for 18 months.

An NDA officer, trains for 3 years. If I go one step further, even to the military school, his training will be even longer, than that of a 5th grader. But, will you ever be able to say, that among all these officers, who is better, or who is worse? But the training period, works automatically, when you analyze the statistics.

That yes, the one who has got good grounding training, will be able to work at a good level, in the beginning. I think, if Agniveer, is being given less training, and more training in less time, then somewhere, somewhere, he will face problems. And if he doesn’t face problems, then the one who will join the unit, will definitely face problems.

So, if you are able to understand this, then I will go to the next point. After the tour and duty, people created a new dispute, which I also think, that will our national security, be compromised or not? It is up to you to judge, if your soldier is less trained, and he is going to leave the army soon, in 4 years, then at what level, are you increasing your national security? When I joined the army, after 1.5 years of training, I know how much trained I was, but the training after that, after 1 year, 2 years, 10 years, 20 years, when I reached 20 years, I was much better trained. I used to understand things, related to my national security, I had exposure, I had everything.

That’s why I think, that I could have thought, about the security of my country, even mentally. It is a big thing. If you, when my millions of soldiers, with less duration training, are available for less duration, then it is reasonable, that somewhere, there will be ups and downs.

This will be a challenge for us. And in the initial years, it will be more. Because the child, who was able to learn in 4 years, and if he had to learn something in 5th year, there was no scope for learning, because he left after 4 years.

That is a problem. This is a problem for my army. So if we talk ideally, then I think, 4 years is a big challenge, that I can give a good soldier, experience, that he will be able to do something, for the country.

I think, as a soldier, this is in my blood, in my habits, in my drills, that if I do any work, in the army, then I do a small experiment, and see. In our language, it is called a pilot project. We say the same here.

What happens in a pilot project, that the thing you were going to do, in such a big place, you did it in a small place, and did a trial. Today, whether you buy a big car or a small car, you do a test drive. Test drive is what? Yes, how comfortable is that car for you or not.

Similarly, I think, and this is my conviction, that we probably, did not give the Indian Army this chance, that we try this project somewhere, as a pilot project. And according to that, we accept it, modify it, or whatever we do. I take you again and again, to a place, Indian Army is not a job.

You probably, in Agni Veer, gave it the name of a job. It is not a job. When we talk about a pilot project, a pilot project is important for my Army, because it tells them, what I have to do What will be the benefits for me, what will be the losses for me.

That is very important to us. What we probably could not do, now we are on a job. Those kids, who took training for a short period of time, came to us for a short period of time.

What will they do now, we will discuss that separately. If we had done a pilot project for this concept, I think, it would have been easier to validate it, and put it on a bigger platform. Maybe, somewhere here, I would say, it was a mistake, it was a handicap, something happened.

Something that was in my habit, that we strive for everything, you probably didn’t do that. Okay. One more big thing is that in Agni Veer, what is the problem which is so bad on social media, that it is good or bad, it is good or bad.

Let me tell you one thing, on social media, it is bad, bad, bad. But we should not ignore it, that my army, my defence forces, need people. It will be more damaging to stop it tomorrow morning.

Yes, it is very important I think, the government will have to listen to this. Maybe not today, maybe after 4 years, when you will suddenly see that another lot has come. Your pain will increase then.

The thing is, what is the difference between Agni Veer’s motivation and my motivation. Both have come to serve the country. That was my thinking.

Unfortunately, today, you have brought a new angle that it was only a job for Agni Veer and for me, Because he has come only for a job. I think, this will be a big challenge for the government that how will you handle this. And I don’t have any other way to handle this right now.

Except this, that you will have to make a separate committee on ground. This will not work. The units in which people go, at that level, what can we do to them.

The biggest motivation, even for Agni Veer, which may not be there, because I have told you, he has not come to serve the army. He has come to serve the army. Because you have declared him a job.

He has come only for a job. So, if a person does a job, why does he do it? His pay and allowances follow him. This is a big thing in itself.

That pay and allowances in itself, is a big motivation for a person to work. Where did the mistake happen? You said, when you introduced, that Rs. 20,000.

Rs. 20,000, google it, was less than Delhi’s minimum wages. Now, we have increased it to Rs. 30,000. Is Rs. 30,000 adequate? I, on my behalf, add Rs. 30,000 to my salary. I would like to see how many people, to give their life, to serve in that harsh terrain, to change from that terrain again and again, what will you do? Would you like to join? If someone is joining this is not a job. Because I don’t want you as employees in the army.

This Rs. 30,000 is a big challenge. You are not able to give the minimum respect.

There is one more big thing. I wrote this so that you remember me. Next is employability. Which is Agniveer’s interest involved. For four years, I was working in a small income because I was helpless. After this, the government said 25% will be here, 25% will be there, what will happen? But there was no solution for 100%.

Yes, I agree with the government. You said that he is coming out at a young age, so he has other options available. But wherever he goes, he has to start from scratch. He cracked an exam, physical, medical, then he became Agniveer. The next day you will tell him to look for something else. I think this is not fair.

Maybe his motivation level will decrease. Not only the government, even the armed forces need his resettlement. Why? Because he has to get married, have children, take care of his family. This will also affect his motivation. The big question is whether Agniveer and I, as a soldier, are equal or not. Because in my army, I have no religion, no caste, no salary.

We never even compare our salaries. We started talking about this when you came into civil life. How much is my salary, how much is my pension, etc. So how will you take this level of equality? Why? Because you call me Shailendra Singh, and my neighbor Agniveer, Agniveer SK Singh. This is not good for me. I am talking about unit level.

I am talking about operational level. I am talking about ground level. I could have told you about strategic level, country level, international level. No, I am talking about ground level. Equality is very important. If he is a colonel and I am a colonel, or if he is a soldier and I am a soldier, then our salaries will be the same.

We must have thought this. One rank, one pension is a great example of this. One rank and one pension. One pension on that rank. So when I was serving, why this distinction? And this I am telling you about my personal experience. Because now our first lot of Agniveer has come to the regiments.

It has come to my regiment too. And when we talk to them, there is enthusiasm because we filled it during training. The environment is good, we filled that too. They are motivated too. But sir, there is a very natural human tendency that both of us soldiers are standing somewhere And if he is telling his family that I have got 50,000 salary and out of that I have transferred 35,000 to my family. Now this will surprise me.

Why? Because I will never be able to say that I am crediting 30,000 rupees. Why? Because out of my 30,000 salary 9000 will be deducted as a kind of PF, whatever you call. I have got totally Rs. 21,000.

No matter how miserly I am, I will be able to spend 20,000 on my family so that my parents can survive and my sister can study. This inequality, the government will have to consider somewhere because it goes against motivation. I say it goes against human rights.

This is what I think. If both of us are doing the same work wearing the same uniform eating the same food because food will be the same in the cook house I don’t think we are doing justice to him whose salary is less. More than that, the ultimate thing, the biggest pride in the army is that I will give my life for my country without a second thought.

Why? It’s not that I don’t think why? It’s because I know that after I leave, I will get a different level of respect. Someone will look after my family. Everyone will do it.

I don’t have to worry that tomorrow there will be thorns in my house. But if Agni Veer knows in the beginning that if something happens to me then what? I will get money. But will I get as much as the people sitting next to me? This is again a violation of human rights.

If both have given their lives, then why are they not treated as martyrs? I think this is unfair. He needs it. I am not saying that he should not join because of this.

He has joined. It’s a good thing. But if he dies in any exigencies, then no one can make a more supreme sacrifice.

And if someone thinks that we will give them Rs. 44 lakh and add Rs. 9,000 more If he thinks this is adequate, then I pray to God that your death happens today.

You should get this money. You should definitely get this money. I want to see how many so-called decision makers will agree on this that yes, I am ready to send my son.

Unfair is unfair. Fair is fair. One more big thing came out of this.

Now, the regular people that they will sit in glaciers, they will sit in high altitudes, they will sit in mountains, they will sit in forests, they will sit in caves, but Agni Veer will not sit. Why? How will we do this in one regiment? You, as a regimental soldier, try to understand this problem. How is it possible that the day we have to climb a mountain, we will say, you climb up, I can’t.

It is not possible. We will eat the same food, we will live together, everything together. Now, this is not fair.

We never ask in the army where do we have to go? Why do we have to go? We are only told that tomorrow we are going to the glacier, we have to catch a flight to the lake tomorrow morning. We have to catch a flight. We pack our things, and go.

Now, if we start looking for whether Agni Veer will go or not, then you have divided that regiment. This is why people are concerned in the army, that you do not make such a distinction. Do not try to divide the army into two parts, because this comes from a long time.

This is a question of my regiment security. If we can’t stay together in the regiment, if we can’t think alike, then the fight is very far away. The salary we talked about, if they are regular, then they will get MSP, military service pay.

I am not. I am working with them. Why won’t I get it? Like I said, the benefits you get from your death, death in the face of war, war cannot be different.

It is like asking the person who has lost his family, what is the value of that person. It is not even worth 1 crore. But what is happening here, 44 lakh rupees, I don’t think is quite justified.

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