'Agniveer' registrations surge in Northeast; Assam leads

Pankhi Sarma

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Guwahati: The Agniveer program has witnessed rapid growth in the Northeastern states over the past two years, a senior official has said. According to data released by program authorities, the number of registrations, particularly among men and women enrolling in the military police division, has witnessed a notable uptick.

In the fiscal year 2023-24, Agniveer saw over 24,000 male applicants and 1,400 female applicants for the Military Police division across India. The subsequent year, 2024-25, saw the number of male applicants soaring to 35,000, representing a 42% rise, while female applicants numbered 2,300, a 64% surge.

At present, Assam attracts three times as many registrations as other Northeastern states. Approximately 30-35% of enrollees come from the 13 districts, with 20% falling within the 15-20 age bracket."

The program, launched in November 2022, initially selected 242 candidates from 13 districts across the state, including Dhubri, Mancachar, Kokrajhar, Chirang, Goalpara, Baksa, Barpeta, Nalbari, Kamrup Rural, Kamrup Metropolitan, Udalguri, and Darrang, with around nine girls among the selected candidates. Subsequently, in 2023, the program witnessed a significant increase in selections, with 619 candidates chosen, including a notable presence of female candidates.

"The scheme emphasizes merit-based recruitment on a pan-India scale, ensuring a diverse talent pool", Col. Ashok Kumar, Directorate of Recruitment, Assam, told Business North East. "It also alleviates the burden of pensioners", he added. 

The 'Agnipath' scheme has been developed after analysis of diverse recruitment models employed globally, and is custom-tailored to meet the specific needs of Indian society and the armed forces, says the government.

Applicants aged 17 ½ to 21 years, who meet educational, physical, and medical requirements, can enroll as agniveers. They commit to a four-year term under the Service Act, which includes training. Intensive military training at established centers.

Selected candidates serve for four years, receiving monthly emoluments and a 'seva nidhi' package. The financial package starts at approximately Rs. 4.76 lakh in the first year, increasing to about Rs. 6.92 lakhs by the fourth year. The 'seva nidhi' package involves individuals contributing 30% of their monthly emoluments, matched by the government, resulting in a corpus of around Rs. 11.71 lakh after four years. Agniveers also receive allowances for risk and hardship, dress, and travel. 

The scheme also offers compensation packages, which include non-contributory life insurance cover of Rs. 48 lakh and additional ex-gratia for death attributable to service. Disability compensation is based on the percentage of disability, with one-time ex-gratia payments for varying degrees of disability.

Selected agniveers undergo a six-month training period for general duties and subsequent arms and services training. "Agniveer program isn't solely military-focused, it offers an attractive package to participants, including competitive salaries, retirement benefits, travel allowances, medical benefits, basic allowances, compensations, and skill certificates with letters of recommendation", Col Kumar stressed. "For instance, a driver not only learns the act of driving but is also trained to operate a complete mechanical transport system," he added.

Beyond military training, Agniveers have access to skill development programs and opportunities for higher education, contributing to personal and professional growth. The scheme also stimulates rural economies by attracting candidates from remote areas and providing avenues for employment and skill enhancement, according to Kumar

"The Agnipath scheme also envisions a progressive induction of women into the Armed Forces, fostering inclusivity and diversity. It aims to recruit talent from across the country, leveraging existing selection centers to tap into the nation's broad-based talent pool", he added.

The AgniPath scheme envisions a younger age profile for the armed forces, with plans to gradually include women and candidates with ITI/diploma qualifications, aligning with the 'Skill India' initiative. Despite the program's popularity, challenges remain, particularly in ensuring equitable opportunities for female candidates, given the limited vacancies available for women compared to their male counterparts.

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Pankhi Sarma