MEL’s recent article “Massive protests against Agnipath scheme for recruitment to the armed forces: The anger of unemployed youth is entirely just” has captured the essential points around the recently announced Agnipath scheme of the Central Government. It has very nicely explained how the people of India are being denied jobs in most sectors, denied fair wages and job security and benefits, including in the armed forces. This article states, “Society, in order to progress, requires that all its young women and men who are capable of work are productively employed. Secure employment and regular incomes for the working people are necessary for the extended reproduction of society. It is a social need. The existing system is not guaranteeing the fulfilment of this need”. This is also being confirmed by the new recruitment scheme of Agnipath.
As such, the Indian state has enacted FTE (fixed term employment), NEEM (National Employability Enhancement Scheme), four new labour codes and various other anti-worker legislations. This has been done for the benefit of capitalists, to recruit the youth and exploit them to the maximum and then terminate/sack them in a matter of 5 or 10 years after squeezing out all their youthful energy. The Central Government has now extended this ruthless mode of operation to the armed forces too.
This scheme, besides cutting down the duration of their service in defence, is also denying all the basic benefits that the armed forces personnel had so far such as medical/health care, pension and other benefits, and virtually turning them into the lowest level of coolies, denying them the honour, prestige and self-respect they deserve.
Besides paying low wages for the 4 year duration of the Agniveers’ services, our very ‘kind hearted’ PM and the military officials are offering them Rs 11.7 Lakhs as so called Seva Nidhi when they are thrown out after 4 years of service. Actually, this Seva Nidhi is taken out from the pockets of the Agniveers, by deducting 30 % of their salaries every month, and paid at the end together with equal amount from the government, totalling to Rs. 11.7 Lakhs! Given the current rate of inflation and constantly rising prices, what would be the real value of this Seva Nidhi after 4 years? Besides, Agniveers are not eligible to get any gratuity, nor PF, nor usual work benefits!
The amount thus saved by Agnipath scheme by denying usual salaries, benefits, pension payments and full duration of services to most of the defence workers, will be a large share of defence budget. The government and top defence ministry officials have repeatedly stated that this amount pulled out of the mouths of Agniveers, will be used for capital expenditure, for acquisition of hi-tech equipment and modern warfare armaments for the Indian Army!
This scheme should be looked at in the background that Indian big capitalists have invested heavily in the Military Industrial Complex in the last few years. H’ble Prime Minister Modi Ji took personal interest and assisted Indian big capitalists to expand their empire in the military industrial complex, in close partnership with US and other imperialists. During US president Donald Trump’s visit to India in the midst of Covid-19 in Feb 2020, Indian big capitalists finalised defence deals worth $3 billion including various partnership deals in military industrial production, mediated and facilitated by Modi Ji.
Reliance Naval and Engineering Limited (R-Naval), Tata Advanced Systems Limited (TASL), Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd, Bharat Forge, Kalyani Group, Larsen & Toubro, SSS Defence, Raphe mPhibr Pvt Ltd, Data Patterns (India) Ltd, etc. are some of the prominent industries of big capitalists in this sector.
The Indian big capitalists investing in the military industrial complex are demanding an assured market to boost up their production and profits. Besides boosting the defence budget allocation and channelling Indian people’s tax money to them, one of the easiest ways to get further allocation for that industry is to cut the wages bill of defence workers and armed forces personnel, and use it for purchasing modern warfare from these companies. This is what our government has done for the benefit of the big capitalists.
This action of the government is also in line with the needs of QUAD and other ‘defence’ treaties of India with US and other imperialists, which demand much more allocation of funds for military exercises and for modernisation of the Indian state’s war machine, in sync with the other member countries of these treaties!
Hence it is very clear that the denial of regular jobs in the armed forces and cutting down of the wages and other benefits for the vast number of armed forces personnel, are all targeted to assist the Indian big capitalists who have invested in the military industrial complex, to earn assured and huge profits from this sector.
Hence it is not surprising that these big capitalists have come out openly in applauding this Agnipath scheme and denouncing the youth who are agitating against the attacks of the government.
Tata group chief Chandrasekaran, Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra, RPG Enterprises Chairman Harsh Goenka, Biocon Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Apollo Hospitals Group Joint MD Sangita Reddy, TVS Motor Company Managing Director Sudarshan Venu, Executive vice chairman of Info Edge/Naukri.com Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Chairman and managing director of JSW Group of companies Sajjan Jindal and the like have welcomed the scheme and supported it, saying ‘Agnipath’ scheme will have a significant positive impact on the society, and contribute greatly to nation building!
Why wouldn’t they welcome the scheme, if it contributes to their profits?
As massive agitations broke out all over India, particularly in UP, MP, Bihar, Haryana, Punjab and other states, against this scheme, both the government and private capitalists offered verbal assurances that the Agniveers would be employed in their organizations.
But what is the current state of affairs for the ex-servicemen who are already in the Job Queue searching for jobs, and how are they employed by various organizations?
Although there are promises and reservations for the Ex-servicemen in public sector banks, in reality, as of June 2021 ex-servicemen constituted only 1.15% of the Group C strength and 0.3% of the Group D strength as against 14.5 and 24.5 percentage reservation targets! The picture is more dismal if central ministries are taken into consideration. Among 32 central ministries, only 1.60 per cent of the 22,168 positions reserved for ex-servicemen have been filled! In the Indian Railways, only 1.4 per cent of positions reserved for ex-servicemen of the armed forces were filled in. In the ten defence PSUs, where the Centre has announced a 10 per cent reservation for the Agnipath scheme, ex-servicemen comprised only 3.45 per cent and 2.71 per cent of Group C & Group D posts filled in respectively!
Shockingly, as of June 2021, only 0.62 per cent of positions reserved for ex-servicemen have been filled by the five wings of the paramilitary forces – Border Security Force (BSF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Sashastra Seema Bal and Central Industrial Security Force (CISF)!
Bihar, UP, Punjab and Haryana together account for 80 per cent of the Indian armed forces. As of 2020, these states together have given jobs to only 1.5 per cent out of the 2,00,000 ex-servicemen who had registered for a job!
This is the shocking record of the ‘care’ that the Indian government has shown to the current ex-servicemen, who have dedicated over 20 years of their productive life to the armed forces! In spite of this, Modi Ji and the capitalists want to fool the youth with blatant lies and false promises, to make youth accept the Agnipath scheme, which is denying them the right to a secure job with assured wages and benefits.
Youth of our country have to understand that this ruthless and most unjust Agnipath scheme is not merely an invention of Modi or BJP alone. Behind them stand the most cruel and greedy Big Capitalists. It is the self-serving interests of Indian big capitalists which is being defended by the BJP government and PM Modi! Hence in order to win a bright future with fair wages and secure jobs, it is necessary for the youth to get organized and fight against the prevailing system for their rights, together with the workers and peasants.