Agnipath has a long-term vision of a productive role for the youth
Agnipath, a scheme announced by the Indian government recently, could be considered a major step and a road map for patriotic and motivated youth to be ‘Agniveers’, enabling them to be of service in India’s armed forces as also society.
A review of military recruitment across the world reveals that recruitment exercises vary depending upon the socio-economic characteristics and requirements specific to a country. The forms of recruitment include, inter alia, mandatory service for a specified period, voluntary enrolment through a selection process, compulsory service, which may be selective or de jure, or some combination of these. Countries which emphasize mandatory military service add up to more than 70, with its actual enforcement varying across jurisdictions. This includes developed countries like Switzerland, Singapore and the US, and developing countries like Brazil and China.
The global economy has witnessed various forms of terrorism, fraud and related activities on account of the negative impacts of disruptive and digital technology affecting the youth. This may worsen with the adoption of 5G and related technologies. Also, globally as well as in India, drug use among the young has increased manifold, as evident from studies by United Nations agencies. Traditional Indian society, guided by a set of principles on conduct or a system of moral values, has slowly been losing its hold. The philosopher Immanuel Kant argues that to act in a morally right way, people must act by a sense of duty, and it is not the consequences of actions that make them right or wrong, but the motives of the person who acts. In this context, a scheme like Agnipath has much relevance.
Agnipath has the potential to attract young talent adapted to modern technological trends and then fine tune their skills to provide the country with disciplined and motivated manpower. It could equip them with key values that cannot practically be taught as part of a school curriculum. Young citizens who complete the programme shall have the potential to work across various sectors of the economy, thanks to the rigorous training undergone, and demand for these job aspirants from recruiters of professionals may therefore be robust.
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for most effective selection criteria or recruitment programmes, as it depends inter alia on circumstances, geographical and other characteristics, budget levels, economic conditions, army requirements and objectives, etc. A combination of recruitment strategies may be pursued to get an efficient mix of talent for an institution. Given its flexibility, Agnipath may be an eye-opener for a future India.
Globally, there had been discussion on bridging the military-civilian divide. The measures usually suggested involve conducting joint training programmes, civilian visits to army locations and similar short-term exercises. Generally, the youth have a narrow understanding of military service components and their positive externalities on social relationships and society’s overall health, well-being and prosperity. Also, there are hardly any opportunities for civilians to have direct interactions with armed-force personnel or understand their day-to-day activities. Most programmes to bridge that gap are usually restricted to a class of officers and run for a limited time period. Agnipath, however, shall facilitate opportunities for the youth to get exposure to the military, thus minimizing the military-civilian divide. Moreover, the forces could also get ahead on the curve of technology trends and develop a cost-effective strategy to bridge the divide, so that both can reinforce each other.
Another key component of any successful recruitment strategy is based on the calculation that the expected value of joining the particular service must exceed the opportunity cost of not doing so. In this case, the opportunity cost may be the pay and other benefits in civilian sector jobs. This aspect was also taken care of while devising this scheme, which is indeed a revolutionary step in the right direction. Moreover, the risk of exposure to life threats was also adequately covered. This may attract talented youth to this sector.
Further, the initiative could also ensure that the country is better equipped to face any type of external or internal threat in the long run. Studies from developed countries (Kleykamp, 2006) which had devised similar strategies reveal that youth with greater college aspirations among recent high school graduates prefer joining military service to entering the civilian labour market directly.
There is no doubt that the dividends of Agnipath for building a New India would be immense, as its positive externalities on the overall development of society, especially for reduction in crime, the ingraining of loyalty, boosting national security, etc, will far exceed the cost of the programme. This scheme could be enhanced further after a short period with modifications wherever required, including opportunities for acquiring degree or other courses indirectly, based on the requirements of recruits during engagement, so that Agniveers get more platforms to expand skills and work opportunities to be engaged effectively in various productive sectors of the economy over time.
The six core ethical values to be inculcated are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship; the principles of professional ethics are impartiality, objectivity, openness, full disclosure, confidentiality, due diligence/duty of care, fidelity to professional responsibilities and avoiding potential or apparent conflicts of interest. The examples of professional ethics or ethical behaviours in the workplace include, inter alia, obeying company rules, taking responsibility, effective communication, professionalism and accountability, apart from trust in and respect for work colleagues. The Agnipath programme is designed to ensure maximum productivity at work. In conclusion, as India’s future workforce needs to be trained in core ethical values and principles of professional ethics, Agnipath has a major role in facilitating the same among the youth.
[The Blog was first published in The Live Mint and is written by Surjith Karthikeyan and is a Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Finance.]