Agnipath: Did Modi govt fail to communicate this reform to its stakeholders?

The Agnipath protest turned into a violent outrage across the nation resulting in the burning down of trains, and buses, vandalism of public property worth lakhs and the death of an agitator in Telangana’s Securandabad.

Agnipath: Did Modi govt fail to communicate this reform to its stakeholders?

Agnipath: On June 14, PM Narendra-Modi-led NDA government approved the Agnipath scheme, a new recruitment policy to induct the youth into the defence forces. The scheme, which was hailed as a long-pending reform in the armed forces hiring process, didn’t go down well with a section of people that took to the streets to register their dissatisfaction against the new scheme. The so-called protest turned into an aggressive and violent outrage across the nation resulting in the burning down of trains, and buses, vandalism of public property worth lakhs and the death of an agitator in Telangana’s Securandabad.

The Centre and armed forces that were actively involved in the brainstorming and framing of the scheme had time and again reiterated that such an intemperate response was never anticipated. On the ground, many defence aspirants, especially the ones not involved in the outrage and willing to enrol themselves under the Agnipath scheme accept that they still have no clarity on the nitty-gritty related to the scheme.

Also Read: Will Agnipath scheme be effective for Indian Army? Military veterans speak

However, the degree and extent of the violent outrage are reminiscent of the recently concluded farm laws protests that went on for more than a year on various borders of Delhi. What’s common in both the Farm laws agitation and the Agneepath outrage? The answer is ‘Ineffective communication of the policy by the Indian government to the stakeholders of the Agnipath scheme.’

Information was released in bits and pieces

“We were susceptible to the scheme at first when it was announced and wanted to know more, however, the full information addressing the concerns of the aspirants was hardly available. This honestly added to the anger and frustration,” said one Defence aspirant on the condition of anonymity.

‘Even if the documents were there, those were not accessible. In short, we didn’t have the answers to our concerns when we needed them. For days, we were confused if Agneepath will be the only recruitment process or will there be other ways. The govt also gave no clarity on whether the candidates who had cleared the physical examination as per the previous policy will be considered or what will happen to them,” he added.

“For the first two days, I wasn’t clear if the Agnipath recruitment will be for non-commissioned ranks or the officers will also be hired through it. The age-limit factor was also one confusion, for a long time we didn’t know if it was 21 or 23 years,” said Sneham Mukherjee, student and defence aspirant.

Former Army Chief General VP Malik agrees that the government failed to communicate its message to the stakeholders of the Agneepath scheme properly and adequately, which in turn added fuel to the fire.

“I think we could have avoided this level of outrage if there was comprehensive communication on the government’s part. Some facts of the scheme could have been conveyed in a better manner rather than being released in stages. However, the government outreach alone wasn’t responsible for this mayhem,’ added Gen Malik.

Language of the Agnipath documents

Geostrategic & Military Analyst and Army Veteran Colonel Rohit Dev, who has been actively following the developments around Agnipath, believes that there has been no lack of information on the newly launched scheme but the availability and accessibility of these documents are a concern.

“I do agree that communication could have been more robust, however, we must understand with military announcements, a certain level of secrecy has to be maintained, as an untimely leak of information might lead to premature litigation,” said Col Dev

Talking about the language of Agneepath documents, Col Dev said “There’s more than enough literature on the scheme at present, so apparently there’s no shortage of information on this. However, one factor is that most people don’t read such bulky text and one is limited by the content in the media and that causes more anxiety.”

During a conversation with Zee Media, Col Dev highlighted a pertinent point about the language of the documents.

“I have been raising it for a long time now, that unless we have a multilingual dissemination of information, such miscommunications will keep happening and one has observed it to be to our peril and at cost of tarnishing of our global image by inimical,” said Col Dev.

“The best thing that could have done was that all the information should have been kept prepared in English, Hindi and other vernacular languages; ready to be released soon after the Scheme was announced” added Col Dev.

Relaxations and quotas are not a reaction to the protests

Col Dev, while talking to Zee Media said that the quotas and relaxations being announced for the ‘Agniveers’ are no amendments as such in reaction to the widespread protests but were a part of the Agneepath Scheme from the very beginning.

“These announcements shouldn’t be called amendments. These are Follow-Up Actions that were formulated in collaboration with various public sector entities and Ministries at the time of policy making. This in no way is in reaction to the protests and the arson” said Col Dev

“These announcements will keep coming in as policy refinements happen with concerned departments and we must not term their amendments, as they are more of Work In Progress matters, as planned” he added while beseeching the Youth not to get waylaid and not to resort to arson etc as it not only leads to the destruction of property and assets but also tarnishes the global image and branding of our Nation

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