Through the Agnipath program, the government is marketing job destruction as job creation


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Although phrased in the language of a patriotic employment plan offering young people the opportunity to serve Mother India, “Agnipath” is an entrenchment plan that harms India’s unemployed and jeopardizes national security.

Routine annual open recruitment of approximately 40,000 soldiers will now be done under the Agnipath program. The main difference is that only 10,000 of the inductees will still have jobs after four years, while the other 30,000 will be ruthlessly fired. It is therefore a system where only 10,000 jobs are created annually instead of the 40,000 jobs generated previously.

It also jeopardizes the nation’s security as the military will gradually depend on a preponderance of under-trained, contract-hired soldiers. Nevertheless, this employment reduction program is presented as an excellent initiative for employment. Even the partial realization of eliminate the long-standing backlog of one million jobs in various departments is presented as the creation of new jobs.

And the two announcements were declared simultaneously – as if the Prime Minister had declared war on unemployment, even if the war is on jobs

Even though the broader economic motives and social imperatives behind the Agnipath project have not been fully understood by the general public, the impact of the regime which bans applicants over 21 and places 75% of recruits in the unemployment after four years without pension benefits sparked the ire of those who were desperate for the recruitment call. The government has responded to the rage in the streets by relaxing the age limit to 23 for this year, but that is not going to put out the fire the regime has lit, because it is not going to answer the fundamental question of what happens to the new recruits four years later.

Endless Agnipareekshas

The Indian army and railways are a major source of employment in states like Bihar, UP and Haryana – where unemployment riots have broken out – apart from labor migration in the informal sectors in western and southern states. So becoming a soldier is fundamentally a real and naked matter of daily bread for the poor, contrary to the romantic bourgeois notion of serving the country.

Agnipath’s shock comes months after the Railway Recruitment Board changed its eligibility qualification, leaving thousands of aspirants dry. With the agricultural and unorganized sectors, which provide employment to the left behind, heavily impacted by demonetization, goods and services tax and later COVID-19 and Modi shutdowns, the youth of the North India has pinned all its hopes on recruiting for the army. But Agnipath came like a thunderclap.

India is facing a great unemployment crisis and Modi has made the problem worse with his disastrous economic policies and now his neoliberal recruitment policies. Even if this resentment is manipulated at election time by communal polarization and labharti distributed, the BJP government has failed to address the underlying economic issues.

That’s why the promises made by BJP state governments – after sensing the simmering resentment – to reserve and prioritize retired ‘agniveers’ in police recruitment and insurance certificates. competence and even diplomas at the end of the commission have failed to convince job seekers.

People stage a protest against the Union government’s Agnipath scheme at Agra-Delhi trunk road in Mathura on June 17, 2022. Photo: PTI

Compromising Indian security interests

The entire system fails the minimum test under any consideration, let alone national security. If the goal is to keep the army young, Agnipath does not answer how an army can be fit and professional when half of its troops will serve short “tours of duty” by 2032, according to Lieutenant General B.S. Raju. As another army veteran said, the Indian army would become a “motherly” strength most soldiers with no incentive to invest in learning or face risk.

On the other hand, how are these agniveers – armed only with a certificate of competence that would be of no use in civilian life – supposed to survive after entrenchment? What would be the societal risk and social cost of facing an army of desperate, militarily trained young unemployed? What kind of social anarchy is Modi dragging India into? These issues have been raised even by veterans sympathetic to the ruling regime.

Neo-liberal Chakravyuha, Hopeless Abhimanyu

The only end this pattern will meet – which seems to be the only intended purpose – is buried between sentences and promises.

Thanks to the neo-liberal fiscal conservatism that drives official policy, the government is desperate to cut spending on salaries and pensions. In the defense budget of nearly Rs 5 lakh crore, more than 2.6 lakh crore is spent on salaries and pensions. The Fiscal Responsibility and Fiscal Management (FRBM) Act of 2003, enacted to show India’s creditworthiness to global investors, binds the Union and state governments to fiscal discipline by reducing the revenue deficit to zero and maintain the budget deficit at 3%. of GDP. Concretely, this means that the government must reduce revenue spending and increase revenue to finance pro-capital reforms and spend on infrastructure required by global capital.

Although public spending is a major source of growth, development and survival in developing countries, the role of the state has been redesigned as an enabler and private capital has been given the task of unleashing the growth and create jobs. Although failing in this task, neoliberal employment policies – contractualization, CDD, elimination of social benefits – are implemented in all sectors. Government recruitment has also become increasingly contractual, provisional and without pension benefits.

The Agnipath program brings this neoliberal policy to the military, but the government has not calculated the resulting social and political costs. In all likelihood, India is planning another disaster caused by Modi – in line with demonetization, GST and no-notice lockdown of 2020.

Shivasundar is a columnist and activist in Karnataka.

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