In his book, which will be released next month, Gen. Naravane claims that it was “not acceptable” that the new inductees’ first year’s starting salary was limited to just Rs 20,000 per month (all-inclusive).

The forthcoming memoir ‘Four Stars of Destiny’ by former army chief Gen MM Naravane states that the Indian Army desired to retain 75% of the personnel hired under the new scheme, Agnipath. In his new book, Naravane—who led the army from December 2019 to April 2022—shares his insights on some of the most important aspects of the new program, such as service tenure, pay, and retention.

In June 2022, the Agnipath program was launched by the Ministry of Defence with the goal of “enabling a youthful profile of the Armed Forces.” Youth are hired under the scheme and given a starting salary of Rs 30,000 for a period of four years. 25% of the workforce will be kept for the regular cadre after four years, and 75% will be Left.

In his book, which will be released next month, Naravane claims that it was “not acceptable” that the new inductees’ first year’s starting salary was limited to just Rs 20,000 per month (all-inclusive).

The former army chief writes, “This was just not acceptable,” according to news agency PTI. We were discussing a skilled soldier who was expected to give his life in defense of the nation. Surely a soldier and a daily wage worker could not be compared?”

Naravane says that this was later increased to Rs 30,000 per month based on the army’s “very strong” recommendations. The employees will receive Rs 30,000 under the scheme in the first year, Rs 33,000 in the second, Rs 36,500 in the third, and Rs 40,000 in the fourth. Massive nationwide protests were triggered by the program because the candidates did not agree with the short service duration and lack of retention guarantee.

The former army chief admits that the new plan’s formulation caught all three forces off guard. According to him, the army was “taken by surprise by this turn of events, but it came like a bolt for the Navy and Air Force.”

“When I first brought up the Tour of Duty plan with the PM, it was more akin to a soldier-level short-service option, much like the already popular Short Service Commission program for officers. He writes, “A limited number of jawans would be similarly enrolled and released after the completion of their ‘tour,’ with the option of re-enlisting for another tour, if found to be fit, just as a limited number of SSC officers are taken each year.”

The General goes on to say that because of Covid and the fighting in Galwan, Ladakh, not much happened in the following few months. He does, however, note that this proposal was being considered by the prime minister’s office, albeit with a far broader scope and application. “In the PMO formulation, not only should the complete intake of the year be short-service based, but it would also apply to all three services.”

According to Naravane, since the issue had now turned into a tri-service issue, CDS Gen. Bipin Rawat was now required to advance the proposal, even though the army would still be the lead service. According to him, it took him some time to convince the other chiefs that his proposal was merely army-focused. “And it took them some time to reconcile with the fact that they were very much part of the new proposal, dubbed the ‘Agnipath’ scheme by the PMO, with the soldiers, sailors and airmen recruited under this scheme to be known as ‘Agniveers’,” he writes.

Regarding the initial discussions on “Agnipath,” Naravane notes that the army felt that retention should be 75%, while the Department of Military Affairs supported a 50-50 split with a five-year term.

According to the ex-army veteran, the CDS presented this model to a full panel of people who included “the prime minister, ministers of home, defence and finance, the NSA, service chiefs, PS to the PM and the secretaries of the relevant departments in November 2020.”

The terms ‘Agnipath’ and ‘Agniveer’ were introduced during this particular meeting. “25,000 soldiers would return to civil society after each ‘tour,’ assuming an annual intake of 50,000 soldiers,” the author writes. 

Since “one of the aims of the scheme was to give back to society disciplined manpower, who would be in a position to contribute much more in the workplace due to the values and ethos they would have imbibed while in service,” Naravane writes that it was felt that this was insufficient to bring about any significant change in the population.

As a result, he writes, the percentages were reversed, with only 25% to be kept and 75% released. According to him, it was assumed that this would operate similarly to the SSC scheme, with retention or release occurring at the conclusion of the five-year contractual period. “On this account, the PMO view was that there should be a two-step retention process; 50 per cent after three years and another 25 per cent after five years, effectively making it only 25 per cent retention,” according to him.

According to Naravane, this was simply impractical because basic training and deployment would take six to eight months, and choosing which personnel to release would also take roughly six months. This meant that any given jawan would only be useful for roughly two years. He claims that the conversations continued for a while. “Ultimately, a middle path was agreed upon, a one-step retention after four years of service.”


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