The Union Cabinet led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to take up and approve the 'Tour of Duty' (ToD) scheme for recruitment of new soldiers into the armed forces today (14 June), reports say.
The armed forces are learnt to have given final touches to the ToD scheme under which soldiers are set to be recruited on a short-term as well as a long-term basis, people familiar with the development said on Monday.
The scheme would be known as ‘Agneepath’ and the soldiers recruited under the scheme would be called 'Agniveer'.
The soldiers recruited under the ToD scheme will serve for a period of four years, including a training period of six months.
Candidates between the ages of 17-and-a-half years and 21 years will be eligible to apply for recruitment under this scheme. The qualification criteria for soldiers is likely to remain the same as before.
The 'Agniveer' soldiers would be paid a starting salary of Rs 30,000. The salary would go up to Rs 40,000 by the end of the fourth year.
The soldiers will also get a 'Seva Nidhi' package under which a soldier will contribute 30 per cent of his emoluments with the government making a matching contribution. At the end of four years, this amount, which is likely to around 10 lakh, will be given to the soldier, and will be tax-free.
According to some reports, around 25 per cent of these recruits could be inducted back into the services based on their performance.
The soldiers who serve in the armed forces under this scheme could be awarded a diploma or given credits for use in further education.
The main aim of the scheme appears to be to prevent the pensions budget of the armed forces from ballooning further. Currently, the pensions claim almost a quarter of the defence budget, which has lead to a decrease in spending on modernisation of the armed forces.
"The share of pension in the defence budget increased from 19% in 2012-13 to 26% in 2019-20. It has since fallen to 23% in 2021-22 and 2022-23. In the budget for 2022-23, the expenditure on defence pension is estimated to be Rs 1,19,696 crore which is 2% higher than the revised estimate of Rs 1,16,878 crore in 2021-22," a recent PRS Legislative Research report says.
However, some of these proposals may see changes as the scheme was given final touches in the last few weeks, sources have told PTI.
Currently, the army recruits officers under the short service commission for an initial tenure of 10 years which is extendable up to 14 years.
Under the new scheme, people to be recruited under the ToD for three years and beyond will be eligible to be deployed as combatants in key forward locations and there will be no restrictions in their roles.
The proposal, which has been part of broad reforms envisaged for the forces, has been deliberated upon extensively in the last two years.
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