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Three service chiefs brief PM on Agnipath scheme

NEW DELHI (PTI):  The three service chiefs separately met Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday and briefed him about their plan to implement the Agnipath scheme and related issues against the backdrop of the ongoing protests against the new policy for military recruitment.

The scheme announced on June 14 seeks to recruit youngsters in the age bracket of 17-and-a-half to 21 years for a four-year period, with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years. For 2022, the upper-age limit has been extended to 23 years.

It is learnt that Army chief General Manoj Pande, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar apprised Modi of the overall induction process and the steps being taken by them for a successful rollout of the scheme.

There was no official comment on the meetings.

The Centre has been strongly defending the scheme, saying the "transformative reform" measure for recruitment in the armed forces will provide an opportunity to youngsters to serve the country.

The meetings between the prime minister and the service chiefs took place hours after the three services said the Agnipath scheme will not entail any change in the existing system of recruitment for soldiers and that it will not at all impact their operational readiness.

"There will be no change in the recruitment process. What happened five years ago, what happened earlier, the same will continue," said Lieutenant General Anil Puri, the Additional Secretary in the defence ministry's Department of Military Affairs.

He said the recruits under the scheme will be eligible for gallantry awards and that it is being rolled out so that the armed forces draw the best talent.

At the briefing, top officials of the three services announced a detailed schedule of the recruitment process, asserting that there will be no compromise on the quality of the training to be imparted to the "Agniveers", though the duration of their training period would be compressed.

"The combat capabilities and readiness of the Indian Air Force are non-negotiable. The Indian Air Force and the government will do everything that is required to keep us combat-worthy and combat-ready," Air Officer-in-Charge of Personnel, Air Marshal S K Jha, said.

Lt Gen. Puri said the Agnipath scheme would add strength to the armed forces. Air Marshal Jha said there is "absolutely no change" in the IAF's process of induction, entry-level qualification, examination syllabus and medical standards for the recruits under the Agnipath scheme.

"All the enrolment in the Indian Air Force will take place only through Agniveer Vayu," he added.

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