According to his memoir, he first discussed a “tour duty” plan with the prime minister, which would have allowed soldiers to enlist in the army for a limited time. According to the news agencies, former Chief of Army General Manoj Mukund Naravane wrote in his memoir that the Central Government’s decision to forward the Agnipath scheme caught the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy off guard.
Under the Agnipath program, individuals between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 are enlisted in the military for a four-year period, with the option to retain 25% of them for an additional 15 years.
When the program was unveiled in June of last year, candidates demanded permanent recruitment with pension benefits, which set off protests in multiple states. The Center raised the upper age limit for recruitment under the scheme to 23 years for the first year after the protest.
In his memoir Four Stars of Destiny, Naravane, who led the 28th Army from December 31, 2019 to April 30, 2022, wrote that he first discussed a tour of duty plan with Prime Minister Narendra Modi for enlisting soldiers for a limited time.
According to the former chief, who detailed his conversation with the prime minister, a limited number of jawans would be similarly enrolled and released after their “tour,” with the option of being re-enlisted for another tour if found to be fit, just as a limited number of SSC (Short Service Commission) officers are taken each year.
The conversation did not go further because the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic and the fighting in Galwan, eastern Ladakh, happened shortly after. He wrote, however, that this proposal was being considered by the prime minister’s office (PMO), albeit with a far broader scope and applicability.
According to Naravane, the PMO designed the plan to specify that all three services would be subjected to a short-service requirement for the entire intake of the year. This turn of events caught the Army off guard, but it came as a complete surprise to the Navy and Air Force, as he wrote. He also recalled that the inductees starting salary for the first year was limited to an all-inclusive Rs 20,000 per month.
Simply put, this was unacceptable, Naravane wrote. We were discussing a skilled soldier who was expected to give his life in defense of the nation. Surely a solid worker and a daily wage worker could not be compared? Later on, this was increased to Rs. 30,000 per month based on our highly persuasive recommendations.
Writing about the fighting between China and India along the Line of Actual Control, Naravane claimed that by taking on the neighborhood bully, the Indian Army was able to send a message to the world, saying enough is enough.
The bloodiest fighting in forty-five years took place in eastern Ladakh in June 2020 between Indian and Chinese troops along the Line of Actual Control. The hand-to-hand fighting claimed the lives of twenty Indian soldiers. Although Beijing had announced the deaths of four of its soldiers in February 2021, it had acknowledged the casualties earlier.