Maharashtra's 'village of warriors' backs Agnipath scheme

Even as the country witnesses largescale protests against Agnipath scheme, a village in Maharashtra‘s Satara has come out in support of the government’s new policy to recruit for armed forces.

Several ex-servicemen from the village have said that though there are protests going on in some parts of the country over the recruitment scheme, their village is positive about the outcome of the scheme, PTI reported.

Subedar Sudhir Karande (retd) whose great fathers have served in the World War-I, told PTI, “It will bring great opportunities for youths and will address the issue of unemployment”.

“Our village is known for giving our sons to the service of the nation and it is in our blood. The youth are positive about the (Agnipath) scheme and they know that the kind of upbringing and tradition they inherit, they can

(once they become Agniveers) and make a cut in the 25 per cent lot for a permanent job in the armed forces.” he mentioned.

The local youth aspiring to join the armed forces are approaching these veteran’s for guidance and to know what the Agnipath scheme is all about.

Another village 15 kms from Satara city named Apshinge is also known as Apshinge Military for its contribution to the armed forces. For generations, one member from each family is serving Indian armed forces.

Till date village has lost around 46 of its members as soldiers in the World War-I and post-Independence war. Some of the veteran’s have also fought in the 1962 war against China, 1965 and 1971 wars against Pakistan and the Kargil.

Subedar Sandip Nikam, who retired in 2020, termed the Agnipath scheme as “good” and said that those who have capability can go ahead in the army.

He mentioned about his after retirement journey and how he explored his skills. Now he is also running an academy for army aspirants, and started a yoga class while farming.

When PTI reporter asked about the government’s claim that Agniveers will get more opportunity after their four-year stint, Nikam’s son Yash (19), who aspires to join army said a large chunk will come out with certificates in hands after their service and the demand for jobs will soar and every year the number will keep rising.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the recruitment process got affected and several aspirants are now facing the age bar. “Considering the pandemic situation, which affected the army recruitment, the government should have waited to roll out the scheme,” he said.

While, Yash’s father Nikam thinks even those who do not make it to the 25 per cent. “Several avenues will get opened up for them once they join the mainstream after four years of service,” told PTI.

Captain Udhaji Nikam (retd), who served in the army for 10 years, said a question is being asked what will Agniveers do when they return to the society as civilians after completing their four-year service in the armed forces.

“But I am sure that they will not have to go back to their houses. There are several avenues that will be available to them afterwards. They will have opportunities in central armed police as well as the state police forces. Employment will not be an issue as soldiers’ leadership qualities get developed in the army,” he told PTI.

He added that soldiers in the army never get specialised training on how to rescue people during the floods, but such a situation arises and when they are deployed on such a mission, their general training and leadership skills come handy.

He, however, said the scheme was announced suddenly and came as a shock as the recruitment process had earlier got affected due to the pandemic and aspirants were worried about the age bar. To avoid the present situation the government should have gone slow by first creating awareness about the scheme.

Vikram Ghadge, who runs an academy for army aspirants in Apshinge Military, said that all his students are positive about the scheme mentioned PTI that “though there are arguments over the future of Agniveers after four years, we in our academy, are preparing the students with an aim that they will get into the 25 per cent lot who will be permanently inducted into the army after serving four years as Agniveer.”

The Agnipath scheme for recruitment of soldiers in the three services, was unveiled by the government on Tuesday. It is being projected by the government as a major overhaul of the decades-old selection process to enhance the youthful profile of the three services.

However, several states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Telangana, have been witnessing violent protests against the scheme, which envisages recruitment of soldiers for a short four-year period and retirement of most without pension.

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