As per reports the government is set to finalise the ‘Agnipath’ nee ‘Tour of Duty’ recruitment scheme, under which youth can enlist in the Army for three /five years and be known as ‘Agnivirs’. It is being envisaged that 25% of them would serve for three years and 25% for five years, the remaining 50% would serve for the full term till they reach the retirement age. This major reform is expected to significantly reduce the age profile of the Armed forces. This reform will also result  in significant reduction of pensions. It will curb the ballooning salary and pension bills that are adversely impacting military modernization. Under this arrangement, after completing 3 or 5 years of service, the Army will help the soldier/officer to be recruited in other services. The soldiers would be given a pay-out along with priority in recruitment to certain government jobs, including the central armed police forces. An effort is also on to nudge corporate India into hiring such ex-ToD recruits for specific lines of work in the private sector on a priority basis. As per reports, the final orders are expected to be issued shortly. 


I remember that the current COAS had made this proposal for officers and had also released a video on this issue. That original idea has been now enlarged all of a sudden to encompass the 12 lakh strong Army and eventually will extend to the Navy and Air Force.  Prima facie the proposal looks appealing. All the goodies to the system have been laid out on paper. However one has to think. If all problems of the Armed Forces could be solved so easily, then life would have been so easy. In any HR proposal regarding the Armed Forces, there are three issues which need to be considered – financial impact, administrative feasibility and operational fall out. In this case the financial impact has been worked out well. I will highlight major administrative issues and throw up a few operational issues. 


The macro administrative issue is that eventually, the 12 lakh strong Army will have 50 % full time regulars (6 lakhs),  25% soldiers serving for 5 years (3 lakhs) and 25% soldiers for three years (3 lakhs). This has a major impact on Recruitment, Training and Discharge – turnovers and capacities. The devil is always in the detail and mathematics reveals it. Hence I will resort to modelling and looking at the numbers. For the purpose of modelling, the mandatory pensionable service is being taken as 15 years. In the current conditions, 100% of Army personnel go through one cycle of  Recruitment, Training and Discharge for which capacities are sanctioned and exist. If the new ToD model as proposed is to be implemented , then one cycle is required for 50% of the army personnel who will put in 15 years full service. Three cycles will be required for 25% of the Army who will serve for 5 years. Five cycles will be required for 25% of the Army who will serve for 3 years. Overall there will be nine cycles of training required. Overall capacity will have to be increased by 250% or two and a half times the current capacities as calculated and illustrated in the model below. 


The annual intake into the Army is approximately about 75 thousand soldiers per year, give or take 10%.  It will increase to about 2-2.25 lakhs per year as per this model. In turn, it will result in a skewed intake and recruitment model. Why so? The simple reason is that from many parts of the country we do not get adequate numbers even in the current conditions. If the recruitment goes up by 2.5 the  times the intake will increase disproportionately from certain states/areas. This has huge ramifications for the overall structure and social balance of the Army. The other major problem is the capacity to carry out recruitment of the required numbers needs examination. That will be a major challenge in itself. Recruitment staff has to be multiplied manifold. I have only outlined the macro problems and not highlighted the seamier details and pitfalls.  


The next mega problem is training. Every recruit has to be trained for 44 weeks. Basic recruit training is carried out in training centres. These training centres have been developed over seven decades since independence, to their present capacities. Even at present, the current capacities fall far short to train recruits. I will highlight with the Artillery example since I remember the numbers and the problems associated. For instance, each of the recruit training centre of Artillery have a sanctioned capacity of about 2000 recruits.. However, each of the Centres used to invariably train about 2500-3000 recruits at any given time. This is because the  training centres were not increased in capacity, in step, with the expansion of the Army over a period of time, for a variety of reasons. This strength goes up to about 4000 plus in peak times as per my experience. In essence, training centres were/are functioning and training recruits at 1.5 -2 times their sanctioned capacities already. This invariably leads to hygiene and sanitation problems. Lack of proper habitat often results in out breaks of diseases like chicken pox. Recruits had to start lining up for morning ablutions at unearthly hours. Expecting to train  2.5 times the current  numbers within existing suboptimal capacities needs a reality check which starts at the toilets. If the fundamentals are not paid attention to, it will be catastrophe. The real requirement will be about 4 times the current capacity. Just imagine trying to upscale capacities to 2.5- 4 times in the next three years, when we have barely been able to cope up with existing requirements for the past 70 years. Infrastructure development involves, land acquisition, planning and execution of major works programme, provision of equipment, etc etc. This is only basic training. Add specialist training and advanced training of soldiers at respective Colleges and Schools. Where do you get trainers for these enhanced numbers? Have we trained the trainers? The sense one clearly gets is that the announcement made does not stand up to administrative diligence in terms of resource, finances and effort . Are kites being flown from flimsy paper?       


In order to be realistic I examined a model where 10% of the soldiers in the Army serve for three years as proposed by the government. Even in this case, the required increase in capacities is 40%. A model where 10% of the soldiers serve for five years also implies increase in capacities by 20 % as shown above. Taking into consideration all issues , interests and system capacities into consideration, a turnover of up to 5% each in a three year and five years’ service model is the maximum that can be attempted. One has also to remember that three years enrolment means only two/four years effective service after 44 weeks of training. The entire proposal needs full commitment from the government to straighten out all the hidden angles,  which will come out, if grass root issues are considered and taken heed of.   


View it from any angle, this is a fundamental change which is being attempted. Whilst doing this fundamental change, the operational issues must be factored in. The poor performance of the Russian Army in the ongoing Ukrainian conflict is largely attributed to their poor training, low level of morale, lack of camaraderie and team spirit. This has come out clearly. This should ring alarm bells for the authors of ‘Agnipath’. Young soldiers need to be part of a team where experience will shield and guide them through. Otherwise they will be huge causalities in war. Armed forces will not achieve national objectives. It will be a national disgrace. Just populating the rank and file with young soldiers to reduce age profiles will not achieve results. Lt Gen Prakash Menon in his article ‘Agnipath’ scheme for military has good intentions. But Modi govt should conduct trials first @ and Lt Col Manoj Chanan in his article The Agnipath of Agniveers- Tour of duty @  give out detailed logic as to why there is an operational danger in attempting this change at the scale envisaged. All I will add is that the resultant turnover and churn at the bottom is something that the units cannot handle. Operational effectiveness will suffer severely. If over and above this, it is expected that a ACR system and a merit based system will be introduced for selecting soldiers for retention in service as reported in media, then we are living in fantasy.  Presently there is no ACR written on a soldier till he becomes a lance naik. Is this not known? Hence the onus and burden of selection, axing and execution is being transferred to the CO of a unit. It is poor leadership if the Generals offload this burden to the Commanding Officer. We will then not be empowering the CO to fight wars. Those at the Service HQs need a rethink. If this is not intended why are such reports floating around?  


It has been said that all these young well trained soldiers will add to the society and be transferred into the Government or CAPFs or be sent into the Corporate sector. Even with the present lot of soldiers who retire, the Government has not been able to side step them into CAPFs/Other Government Services. Unless it is mandated by government order this envisaged side stepping will not happen. Has any work been done on that? Have the orders been given to CAPFs to stop recruitment? Leaving it to the Army to find solutions to this problem is a non-starter. This is a national problem and not the problem of the Army or MOD alone. Has the cabinet owned this proposal. Nothing in the press indicates so. Think of this problem differently. If a person is trained by the Army between 18-20 years of age and is left into society without a job after three to five years of service, imagine the outcomes.  A militarised youth without a job at 21-25 years of age and with no great prospects is a danger to society. To put it in perspective, when I was a brigade commander in the North East, I was approached by many locals to train and prepare youth for recruitment into the Army. I was enthusiastic about it till I was gently told by a wise officer that if the youth does not make the grade for the Army, he will be a readymade candidate for absorption into insurgent outfits. 


As far as corporate India is concerned, I am not the only one who is sceptical about the outcomes. The views of a retired  General Officer who I have always respected for his balance are that;  after three years ToD, job availability for these boys exiting the Service will be as under :-

Communication expert ( Runner)

Document manager ( Peon)

Security expert ( Security guard)

Aerobic Maintenance Expert ( Gym eqpt saaf safaiwala)

Floor manager ( handler of cleanliness eqpt like swabs,brooms, detergents)

Service Executive (handy man)

Overall, the views of the veteran community is that,  such wholesale changes need to be approached with care. The ultimate acid test is – how does it affect the fighting capability of the unit? I am afraid the ToD proposal does not pass the test at this stage. However, it should not be thrown out of the window. There are merits in the proposal. The trick is to see how to make it a success. It will be far better to run a trial and then expand it. In all this,  I do hope the Services are in kept in the loop and not excluded by our great bureaucracy. 


Let me finish off with an example to drive home the point. A new system of centralised pension disbursal has been started by the PCDA called the SPARSH a few months back.  All veterans are under migration to it as I understand. It has been three months since I have received a pension slip. I do not know whom to contact. The SPARSH website shows me nothing more than my personal details. Earlier I used to go to the local bank manager who used to sort out all issues for me. Now I am on a limb. I am a retired Lieutenant General. If this is my status what will be the plight of rank and file? I am sure that this dysfunctional system was started with a lot of fanfare as a great reform some time back. We are suffering for it. Some might call it teething troubles. To me it seems an unwanted headache of an empire building exercise by someone in the MOD. It is ok if I suffer. I am only an individual. The ToD system should not put the nation in a predicament as I am. We should not get our teeth knocked out on the LOC/LAC and then say it was due to the teething troubles of  ‘Agnipath’.          


References :-



  1. In our context Agnipath by Agniveers is treading a Dangerous path.

  2. This is the most authentic and candid opinion about our future armed forces conduct, role , behavior and possible outcome of their actions. All stakeholders should get really serious about the problems to find out the means to overcome them.

  3. Very apt detailed and correct analysis of the episode. This will have severe consequences on overall functioning of Forced.

  4. Once again very well researched and analysed article. This kind of deliberation should have been gone into by Policy makers before proposing implementation. It is quite obvious that the same hasn't been done and consequences could be disastrous. Sir, we sincerely hope that in the light of this as also different opinions coming forth the Government would revisit the policy.

  5. Excellent portrayal of reality. Financials also need to be given.

  6. A very well researched analysed and logically presented paper that puts across a complex issue in the most simplistic of forms. But does logic have a chance against illogic? Hope it has atleast for the sake of our country

  7. An excellent and to the point article as ever Sir. It seems surreal that so many wise serving professionals have been unable to identify the challenges so clearly spelt out here. We know our strengths and our shortcomings, it is inexplicable that we are willing jumping into a well knowing that there is no rope for exit and the water has crocodiles. Change is inevitable, but, in this case- the devil is in the details and points to an abdication of leadership responsibilities.

  8. A very well articulated and analysed paper giving a road map for implementation of this project. Every issue must be taken initially as trial before implementation. Side stepping into CAPF and other govt/private jobs must be strictly implemented for making this scheme viable.

  9. Super analysis. If not paid heed to the contents of this blog, the disaster is in waiting

  10. Very well written article . It also shows what materials make it finally to the highest rank of COAS and Army Cdrs who fail to take a stand for the Organisation they represent.If this is the brain child of CDS Rawat then be assured we are done for. Please don't ruin the country. It is our SC and the Govt which are presently set upon ruining a time tested Organization. Very well written article Sir. Hope COAS takes a stand and shows light to the Govt. Or is he another CDS …the Yes Man ?

  11. “Are kites being flown from flimsy paper?”. That sums up the concept evolved theoretically. Organisation Structures Evolve over a period (prolonged), are discussed with stake holders, war gamed, Battle Tested and then are implemented if approved. By naming the concept”Agnipath” & “Agnivirs” are plain Rhetoric. Must be shelved.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Sir the article is very well written. But the correct figures of wastage is 75% after 5 years, which has not been taken into account.The initial wastage rate is 50% after 3 years and another 25% after another 2 years ie 75% wastage after 5 yrs cumulative. Hence only 25% of the initial lot will remain after 5 years in permanent cadre.The calculations for wastage management, the need for advanced miltary training of the 25% retained and making up of deficiencies when such huge numbers exit en masse will need to be based on above

  14. It has its own merits but the co in the field needs to be taken on board. I know for certain the accountability and responsibility principle . Its so nice to show case that all are responsible including the babu making very wise and logical plans but when it comes to shouldering the bullets the accountability vanishes in thin air. I agreewith the general when he says that even today the side stepping into state police and other para military why this even doctors can not be laterally absorbed due to the turf. Contradictory to side stepping one chief wanted national aviation to be an extension of air force but see all pilots left for green pastures. So deliberate run the partial model test it well before implementation.

  15. Well written article….but I am pessimistic about the proposal,bcos the sr leadership in their over enthusiastic endeavour to please pol bosses,to reduce pension and salary bill, will go to any absurd extent without giving due though t to the consequences.It shud be put on trial basis first as suggested by the author and then implemented.

  16. This entire exercise is cut down the pension bill more then half of which is consumed by the civilian staff who serve till 60ys.Imagine the state of a CO with 50:25:25 as a fighting strength. This will further affect the fighting capability of of the boots on ground whose TOD is about to close.If the Armed forces are being equated in terms if financial liability then we mighty well see more alternatives for national security.

  17. A deep analysis of the proposal. Even the financial implications in my opinion – based on the limited inputs I have – do not suggest a reasonable cost benefit ratio. I wouldn't even go into the adverse impact on operational efficiency. Fighting capabilities are time, resource and environment intensive. So well, the aim of employment generation ( if at all) may well be served but it needs to be borne in mind that the army seeks to prepare soldiers for fighting and not mere canon fodder that must keep worrying about the fate post tour. I do hope I am wrong and greater minds have thought it all through. And yes just the back of the envelope calculation reveals that a three year TOD allows effective availability of a soldier fir only 88 weeks ( 156 weeks minus 44 weeks training minus leave for two years ie. 12 +12 weeks) unless there is some sort of rationalisation there as well.

  18. Discipline ,combat readiness ,undertaking harsh operations at glacial heights will suffer .The army will be reduced to constabulary standards

  19. Penny wise pound foolish… At best this will leave the Indian Army operationally and administratively much less efficient…

  20. Very well analysed. Change for the sake of change and for ones image as a reformist, will spell doom for the armed forces. The previous CDS has inflicted enough damage. This needs to be checked now.

  21. Its akin to short service commissions, wherein Govt and Army both are facing legal disputes. There is a sense of mistrust, distrust and imbalance between the so called regulars and non regulars. Non regulars are illtreated, looked down and given step motherly treatment. The scheme will fail practically. The brain behind it is looking for grass cutters, waitors,batman's to polish the Generals shoes. A slave tribe akin to Britishers.Capt Prakash chandra SS 39

  22. Basically RSS think tank has conceived this limited idea for limited purposes.Penetrate the rank and file from recruitment onwards,create the resource of “planned wastage” to train para-military while being pliable and not in directing positions,keep the Army Officers busy without aim and in ferment while the troop loyalties become increasingly suspect.RSS with the ruling clique is creating the Praetorian Guard for a militarised society as also to stand as the first line of armed resistance against a speculated plebian resistance or uprising due to the exploitive policies of the government.To blame the bureaucrats for not having the Army heads in order or a former CDS to have failed the military value system is to worship a stone god.

  23. If you remember the old saying “” History repeats itself but it is never the same again”,here one is forced to think is it training of young Nazis by army to make them Strom troopers of Nazi party here it is not SS but RSS.Any authoritarian ruler will try to put down /under control army.Here we see slogans for army but everything is FAR army.Another reminder of history china is almost knocking at the doors and army is 1.less motivated 2 less trained 3 less paid now contractual than weas a nation would like it to be.God save the country where national interest is seen only in terms of money .We have Ukrain to learn if we want to

  24. MOH has been objecting to lateral induction of retired soldiers for last fifty years.Let GOI resolve this pending issue before adding further burdon to the existing problem.

  25. Looks pragmatic BUT incomplete. The leadership can not be caste in the same form as the led. The officers level recruitment can go on n being as at present for SSC officers. It can be extended as CSL (compulsory service liability ) for all able bodied young recruits in gazetted post in all other central and government services. Their tenure too can be five years with benifit of seniority and bonus points for promotions in their own patent service after 5 years of defence tenure. This scheme was implemented in 1960-70 and those who went back did extremely well in their careers . The other SSC officers should be given preferential reserved entry into IAS, IFS,IPS etc.but after clearing entry level tests of UPSC.

  26. You have given a frank assessment.I fully agree

  27. There are 15 countries which have military service compulsory for young men/women for 3 to 5 years or upto 30 years. Their system should have been analysed. In my view first it could be taken as a pilot project for 2 % recruitment for 3 years.

  28. I agree in principle with the idea of TOD. If (and it is a big if) planned and implemented properly, it will achieve it's twin objectives of keeping a young profile of armed forces and reducing revenue expenditure. Training and administration (including recruitment) will require suitable review. Assured second career, based on positive recommendations from the commanding officers, is a sine qua non for success of the concept. The whole process must be owned and executed by the government and not left to the armed forces. Faulty terms and conditions and tardy execution can have disastrous consequences for national security

  29. Well articulated with logic all along.This is a drowning dive, non starter. I pray it doesn't take off.

  30. Many pitfalls in the current trg curricula… shortage of trained instrs,eqpt to train,albeit of trg apt incl space in trg centers… health,hyg & sanitation is already elaborated… if span of three yrs incl trg the the residual life has about 90 days lve per year,furtherhow will their tenure be balanced ? What about trade trg?Are they meant only for three years fd service?if so it is inhuman to put them so early in comparison to progressive transition as per regt ethos.will this be the model for combatants only? … what about phy and battle case?will they get lifelong pension? … I would prefer to wait and watch for the scheme to be rolled out

  31. Very attractive on paper but a huge muddle once you come to the detail.Certainly not suitable for the combat arms.This is worse than conscription.

  32. An aide to the Queen to much embarrassment saw that she wore no underwear, he was discreet in keeping quiet and looked the other way,fearing that he would lose his life or at least his head if he told her or anyone else!This raises a question, do we think that the COAS and entire support system at his disposal including the ARTRAC are not aware of the risks the 3 Year Tour of Duty brings with it?Do we honestly expect that any one from the military hierarchy will have the courage to stand up and tell the political Masters that this won't work!Rawat sold his soul apart from his Army and died with the dream of becoming an embassador.Who will bell the car?I too have written on this topic twice, both articles are available in Mission Victory India. These were sent by me to the AG and Chief.

  33. Agniveer concept is an outstanding example of professional and social insanity. It is amazing that even uniformed are calling it a great change. A soldier is not a popcorn packet, which can be produced like a two minute Maggie. It takes time in years. If the proposal goes thru, we will have raw soldiers in front line. When he matures in 3 to 5 years he quits. Now the social issue. We will have a well trained,physically fit person on the street without ajob. Have the insane and myopic self proclaimed strategists thought of the consequences of having thousands of well trained ex soldiers on street without a job that will meet their needs. Do we realise that they will be the most important pick of the underworld? May I appeal to insane and illiterates to leave military structure untouched. Our ancestors were wise people.

  34. No one is listening. No one listens. Just an idea being bulldozed into the services

  35. In my opinion this model should be tested by creating a Division mix of same proportion.This Division should be exercised in war like scenario and should be oporationally deployed in in semisensitive sector. This trial should be over in 6 yrs to arrive at proper policy thereafter.Aneer

  36. The cardinal principle to venture into Agnipath project should be the last 5 lines of the article, that, ” we should not get our teeth knocked out on the LOC/LAC and then say that it was due to the teething troubles of 'Agnipath' “.Another worthwhile exercise would be to separate out the salary and pension component of civilian defence employees to deflate the bogey of heavy defence budget in general and burgeoning pension load in particular.

  37. Kudos to you Sir for a very well articulated article with detailed analysis. If the aim of policy makers is only to reduce Revenue expenditure towards pension then certainly Agnipath is not the correct solution. Because it's implementation, without working out a structured strategy (post ToD) for lateral absorption, will be disastrous. Also, efficacy of training, without first strengthening the recruitment and training infrastructure, will not be the same as is required to stand post for National Security. Both points have already been explained in the article.Think Tanks need to re-think, is it only and only the burden of pension which has forced them to draw this outlandish plan? What about hoards of other pensioners from Central and State Government including civil defense employees? Has any exercise been conducted to reduce that burden? If yes, then let's analyze that model for suitability of adoption. Else, why toy with an idea which will have adverse ramifications on professional standards to be maintained by Armed Forces? Two thoughts- Firstly, plan for a Pilot Project at much reduced level and await its success before full scale implementation of Agnipath.Secondly, and equally important, obtain a committed response from other Ministries about their detailed plans for lateral absorption. My earnest request is that reforms related to National Security need to be dealt with extreme caution, due diligence and only after successful experiments. Jai Hind ����

  38. The first point comes to mind is why this thought process has started? What is the need to interfere with the armed forces? Defence expenditure will keep increasing if we have to acquire new weapons and remain updated. Pension expenditure is unavoidable. There are many other departments and organisations where expenditure can be easily controlled. Pensions of MP and MLAs their security, perks, departments such as meteorology, R and D even the ordnance factories need over hauling. Also stop all freebees. Government can thus save collosal amount.Coming to. TOD. Three years is no army service it will be only an introduction. Agnipath idea should be dropped. They should pay more attention to resettlement of defence personnel. Pension expenditure could be reduced by stopping extra payment for partially disable pensioners, though they are fit still they draw additional pension.Inshort I feel there is a need to give a fresh look covering all aspects. I sincerely request the authority not to disturb the Indian Armed Forces.

  39. Well written article this should open the eyes of the chief how he and all others who support this agniveer idea could not visualise the bad effects on the country and society.kindly don't spread this virus in the Army .By this we are going to harm the future'of youth which ultimately will harm the nation.Blind followers have no destination.we have seen the end of such leadership recently kindly don't go on that path the curse of families will lead to that end.Jai Hind wake up we are at present stinger than Russian don't make us weak.I Major Kunwar Suresh Rana(Veteran) support the writer of this article and oppose the blind followers

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