Can Military Drafting Solve India’s Job Crisis

Can Compulsory Military Service Solve India’s Job Crisis?

Last weekend in a video story on deKoder, veteran journalist and India’s best-known psephologist Prannoy Roy’s new website, a cross-section of young voters that he interviewed in Bihar nearly unanimously listed jobs and employment as being their topmost concerns in the ongoing mammoth Indian parliamentary elections, two phases of which have been completed and five more are to be held. 

Nearly 200 million of the 969 million registered voters who are eligible to vote in the elections are between 20 and 29 years old and, not only in Bihar but everywhere in India, the biggest focus of this demographic slice of the population is on jobs and employment.

That is no surprise. Out of India’s working population of a billion people, only 100 million or just 10% have formal jobs. The rest, an estimated 900 million (twice the population of the European Union and three times the population of the US) are engaged in casual work or are unemployed. A large proportion of them are in rural areas where 833 million Indians live.

India, with more than 1.4 billion people, has more than 50% of its population below the age of 25 and more than 65% below the age of 35. These are huge numbers but, if seen in the context of employment and jobs, theý are scary numbers. According to some estimates, even if the government’s state-run incentive schemes to spur manufacturing in India succeed, they will create barely seven million jobs, a tiny drop of what is really required.

Maths and Stats of Jobs in India

Breaking down the aggregate numbers of jobs in India reveals eye-opening facts. Agriculture accounts for the largest share of the workforce in India, mainly in the rural areas, but it contributes the least to the country’s GDP. Agriculture and allied sectors employ 44.9% of the male workforce and 62.7% of the female workforce but those sectors contribute less than 17% of GDP.

Industry, which includes manufacturing, construction and other related activities employs less than 17% of the male workforce and 16% of females. The sector contributes around 26% of GDP. The biggest share of the workforce is employed in the services sector–more than 27% of the male workforce and around 22% of females. Services, which includes education, health, trade, transport, IT/BPOs, and financial services, contribute more than 48% of GDP. 

Although the majority of Indians are employed in agriculture, in fact, those statistics could be misleading. Many Indians in rural areas have no alternatives than to choose underpaid or often unpaid occupations related to agriculture. This is a phenomenon known as “disguised unemployment” where the productivity of a worker is very low or even zero. In other words, if some of them were to leave the farms where they ostensibly work, the productivity on the farms could actually increase.

A Military Solution?

The sheer size of India’s working age population makes the problem of unemployment huge and daunting. It is not just the fact that jobs are not there in the numbers that are required. Despite the huge numbers of Indians joining the workforce each year and looking for employment, there is also a serious supply side problem. This is a problem of mismatch. Employers in India say that it is difficult to hire workers who have the required skills. Education at primary and secondary levels is nearly universal in India but the systems for vocational training and higher education are still inadequate. 

For example, there are 23 Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), which offer around 17,000 seats every year, but the competition to get into them can be fierce. This year more than a million students took the entrance exam. The situation is no better in lower-tier institutes and vocational schools, many of which also offer courses that are less than adequate for employers looking for skilled workers.

In such a situation, could there be an unconventional solution to India’s youth unemployment problem like, say, compulsory conscription into the defence services? It’s a controversial idea, fraught with several risks, but could it be worth it?

Unlike many countries, including Israel, South Korea, Finland, Switzerland, Greece, Brazil, and Norway, India does not have a system of conscription where it is compulsory for young men (and in some cases, women too) to do military service for varying periods of time. In recent years, some countries that had done away with the system have been renewing conscription programmes – notably in the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, which won independence from the erstwhile Soviet Union. In those states, the renewal of conscription reflects the threat of aggression by Russia. 

In countries that have had a policy of conscription, it has promoted national unity by bringing citizens together and fostered an appreciation for the sacrifices made by military personnel. It has also created an active reserve of trained personnel who can quickly be deployed in response to national security threats. Besides, military service also imparts various skills in individuals. 

A Controversial Case for Conscription

All of those could be advantageous for India. A spirit of national unity in a country as diverse as India would be welcome, and in a world where national security risks are increasing, there is no harm in having a dynamic reserve of trained military personnel. Also, the benefits of the military’s training and discipline for India’s huge population of youth are obvious.

It will not be easy to implement conscription, though. Two years ago when the Indian government introduced the Agnipath scheme, it faced huge opposition. 

The Agnipath program is a recruitment initiative for the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy, and it is designed as a “tour of duty” style scheme for recruiting soldiers below the rank of commissioned officers into the three services. The recruits, known as Agniveers, serve for a four-year period and form a new military rank. It is, however, voluntary and not compulsory.

The government’s rationale for the programme was that it would provide a younger and more tech-savvy military force; and it would provide India’s youth with the opportunities to gain military training and experience. At the end of their service period, they would also get a severance package, known as Seva Nidhi, to help them get alternative employment and careers. 

The main opposition to Agnipath was from defence aspirants, military veterans, opposition leaders, and certain states. They argued that the scheme could potentially affect the future of serving personnel, impact the professionalism, ethos, and fighting spirit of the forces, and possibly lead to the militarisation of civil society. There’s also concern about the lack of job security after the four-year term ends, as only 25% of Agniveers would be selected for regular military service for a full term of another 15 years, while the rest would be demobilised.

Yet, Agnipath Has Been a Hit

By all accounts the programme has found takers from the target group it addresses–youth aged between 17.5 and 21. In 2024, the Indian Army received a significant increase in applications for the Agniveer program compared to the previous year. A total of 12.8 lakh youth, including both men and women applicants, have applied to become Agniveers. This is 10% higher than the 11.3 lakh applicants in 2023. The planned recruitment of Agniveers for the armed forces annually is roughly 46,000, with 40,000 for the Army and the remaining 6,000 for the Navy and the Air Force combined.

If the Agniveer programme has worked, would a compulsory conscription scheme also work? India has always had a voluntary armed force without any conscription laws. However, the Indian constitution has a provision in Article 23 that allows the government to mandate conscription in the interest of national security and public welfare. Yet, India has never applied this provision. 

Conscription has gained attention in recent years due to reports of recruitment shortfalls, particularly for officer positions, since 2008. This shortfall in recruitment can be  a threat to national security. Since India’s Independence, there have been several systems of compulsory military training for students in public schools and universities, although conscription was not mandatory. 

The National Cadet Corps (NCC), formed in 1948, aimed to generate youth interest in defending the country. In 1962, China invaded Indian territory, leading to the implementation of specific emergency recruitment regulations and, through the 1970s, NCC cadets were trained in handling weapons and basic techniques of warfare such as tank and artillery training.

Backlash Versus Benefit

Many argue that conscription is a violation of personal freedom and choice. Some are opposed to it because of moral, ethical and religious reasons. There is also the question of whether military training can impart skills that are relevant for civilian life. 

The most serious issue that India faces is that of tackling unemployment. Only 100 million Indians have formal jobs.According to the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy, in the October-December 2023 quarter, joblessness among those in the age group of 20 to 24 grew to 44.49% from 43.65% in the previous quarter of July to September 2023. On the other hand, it stood at 14.33% for the age group of 25-29 compared to 13.35% in the July-September quarter.

These are sobering numbers and they are a wake-up call for policy makers. No matter who nearly a million Indians will vote into power in the next few weeks, dealing with youth unemployment and the job crisis will have to be the most important task, and the way forward could be by thinking out of the box. Could conscription be a non-conventional solution?

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Army Pakistan Drone

Army To Deploy Drishti-10 Drones Near Pak Border In Punjab

The Indian Army’s surveillance capability along the border with Punjab is all set to get a boost as the force is set to deploy its Drishti-10 medium-altitude, long-endurance drones at a forward base in the Punjab sector.

The drones are expected to be inducted into the force in the next two to three months by the Indian firm Adani Defence.

The Indian Army has placed orders for two of these drones from the firm under emergency provisions that mandate that the systems supplied by vendors should be more than 60 per cent indigenous and should be under the ‘Make in India’ in Defence.

The Indian Army has plans to deploy these drones in the Punjab sector, where it can keep an eye on a large area, including the desert sector as well as the areas north to the Punjab, military officials told ANI.

The Indian Army is already operating the Heron Mark 1 and Mark 2 drones and has also placed orders for the Drishti-10 or the Hermes-900 drones under the last tranche of the emergency procurements approved by the government for the forces.

Adani Defence had signed a deal with the Israeli firm Elbit for the transfer of technology for the drones and stated that it has indigenized 70 per cent of the birds and will work to increase it further.

The Indian Army has also inducted more satellite communication-enabled birds from Israel, as it has a few Heron Mark 2 birds in direct deals with Israeli Aircraft Industries.

The drones were unveiled earlier this week by Indian Navy Chief Admiral R Hari Kumar and Director General Army Aviation Lt Gen Ajay Suri in Hyderabad.

The Indian Navy is going to position them in Porbandar to keep an eye on the maritime boundary with Pakistan as well as the high seas, as the BiRa have the capability to fly for over 30 hours and cover a distance of around 2,000 km in one go. (ANI)

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Indian Army Pakistan

Army Launching ‘Operation Sarvashakti’ To Counter Pak’s Attempts To Revive Terrorism In J-K

In a major step towards thwarting Pakistan’s attempts to increase terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir, the Indian Army is launching Operation Sarvashakti, where the security forces will be targeting the terrorists operating on both sides of the Pir Panjal mountain ranges in the Union Territory.

In recent times, Pakistani proxy terrorist groups have tried to revive terrorism in the South of Pir Panjal ranges especially in the Rajouri Poonch sector, where around 20 troops have been killed in attacks by terrorists, with the latest being on December 21, when four soldiers were killed in the Dera ki Gali area there.

“Operation Sarvashakti would be to carry out combined counter-terrorist operations from both sides of the Pir Panjal ranges where the formations of the Srinagar-based Chinar Corps along with the Nagrota-headquartered White Knight Corps would be carrying out simultaneous operations,” sources in the security forces told ANI.

“The Jammu and Kashmir Police, CRPF, Special Operations Group, and the intelligence agencies would be working in close coordination to thwart Pakistani designs to revive terrorist activities in the UT, especially in the Rajouri Poonch sector,” they added.

The operations are expected to be on the lines of Operation Sarpvinash, which was launched in 2003 to eliminate terrorists from the same areas in the South of Pir Panjal range.

Army Chief General Manoj Pande recently stated that terrorist activities had almost vanished in the area since 2003, but the western adversary is now trying to revive it there.

He along with the Northern Command had also held detailed discussions with the Corps Commanders on ways to tackle the threat from these terrorists.

The operations are being launched in close monitoring by the Army Headquarters and the Northern Army Command in Udhampur and were planned soon after Home Minister Amit Shah held a security meeting with all stakeholders including the National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Army, intelligence agencies including both internal and external ones, police officials from both state and central agencies.

Northern Army Commander Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi has held coordination meetings with the top security forces brass in both the Jammu and the Kashmir regions for coordinated action against terrorists.

The Indian Army has also started the process of inducting more troops in the Rajouri-Poonch sector

The troops’ induction process has also started, along with the strengthening of the intelligence setup in the region.

The security forces are also confident about the local support to thwart terrorism in the areas.

Sources said that despite provocation by terrorists to attack an Army vehicle in the Krisna Ghati area, the troops did not fire back as a lot of civilians were present there. The swift action initiated by the Indian Army against own officers and men in the death of civilians post December 21 encounter has also helped. (ANI)

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avalanche rescue army LOC

J-K: Army Showcases Avalanche Rescue Prowess On LoC In Gulmarg

In a display of remarkable resilience and expertise, an Indian Army unit deployed on the Line of Control (LoC) in the Gulmarg sector of the Baramulla district showcased its exceptional capabilities in avalanche rescue operations in high snow levels and inclement weather conditions.

In a remarkable display of resilience and expertise, an Indian Army unit deployed on the Line of Control (LoC) in the Gulmarg Sector of the Baramulla district of North Kashmir showcased their prowess in avalanche rescue operations and domination of the area during the winter snow season.

Daring harsh and challenging winter terrain, the unit seamlessly integrated avalanche dogs, an avalanche rescue team, Ski-patrol and an efficient casualty evacuation mechanism into avalanche rescue protocols to ensure the safety of their personnel.

The heart of this training lies in the collaboration with highly trained avalanche dogs, adept at locating buried individuals under snow. These canine heroes, working in tandem with the Avalanche Rescue Team, navigate treacherous snow-covered landscapes to swiftly identify and pinpoint potential avalanche victims.

The Ski-Patrol, specially trained and equipped with avalanche safety gear, demonstrated their mastery in alpine environments, effectively reaching remote locations where traditional means might fall short. Their agility and skill were paramount in accessing areas inaccessible to standard rescue teams.

Additionally, the unit showcased a streamlined casualty evacuation process, ensuring that any injured personnel are rapidly and safely transported to the nearest available medical facilities.

This comprehensive approach not only reinforces the unit’s commitment to the safety and well-being of its personnel but also highlights their proficiency in handling complex scenarios, particularly in the unforgiving winter conditions of the LoC.

This awe-inspiring demonstration not only reinforces the military’s dedication to excellence but also sheds light on the crucial role played by specialized units in ensuring the security and welfare of our forces in challenging environments. (ANI)

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Apache Pakistan Jodhpur

Army To Deploy Apache In Jodhpur Near Pak Border

The Indian Army is going to bolster its combat capabilities near the Pakistan border in the western desert as it is going to deploy its six Apache attack helicopters at a military station in Jodhpur.

“The first of the choppers is expected to start arriving from the US in February-March timeframe at the Hindan air base as scheduled in the contract. The choppers would then be deployed at a military station in Jodhpur for operations,” military officials told ANI.

The Indian Air Force already has a fleet of 22 Apache helicopters deployed at both western and northern borders and the Army inductions would take the joint inventory to 28.

We have already trained more than 50 of our pilots and technicians at the American facilities as per the contract with the Americans. We would be able to operationalise the fleet in a very short time, they said.

The American attack helicopters were deployed in the eastern Ladakh sector soon after the Chinese aggression started in 2020 and have been operating from forward bases there.

The original equipment manufacturer Boeing announced in August last year that it had started the production of Apache Helicopters for the Indian Army at its state-of-art facility in the US (Mesa, Arizona).

The production process builds upon an ongoing collaboration with Tata Boeing Aerospace Limited (TBAL), which plays a pivotal role in the manufacturing of AH-64E fuselages at its cutting-edge facility in Hyderabad, India, it had stated.

The AH-64’s state-of-the-art technology and battle-tested performance will elevate the Indian Army’s operational effectiveness and amplify its defensive capabilities”. (ANI)

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Rajouri Anti-terror Operations

Army Chief To Visit Rajouri Today, Oversee Anti-Terror Ops

Indian Army chief General Manoj Pande is scheduled to visit the Rajouri sector on Monday days after four soldiers were killed in a terror attack in the region earlier.

The Army chief will review the ongoing counter-terrorist operations underway in the area.

Four Army personnel were killed while three others were injured after heavily armed terrorists ambushed two Army vehicles near Thanandi in the Rajouri sector on Thursday last week.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the four fallen soldiers, Naik Birender Singh, Rifleman Gautam Kumar, Naik Karan Kumar, and Rifleman Chandan Kumar, were accorded farewell at a wreath-laying ceremony in Rajouri.

The Poonch-Rajouri sectors are the responsibility of the 16 Corps which is going to see a routine change in command as the incumbent Lt Gen Sandeep Jain is handing over command to Lt Gen Naveen Sachdev.

As per sources, the Army Headquarters is also watching the situation closely and keeping track of operations there closely.

The Indian Army said on Saturday that it is conducting an inquiry into the deaths of three civilians in the Poonch-Rajouri sector, where militants launched an attack on army personnel on December 21, killing four soldiers.

Taking to X, the Indian Army posted, “Search operations by the security forces are continuing in the area of operations after the incident of December 21. Reports have been received regarding three civilian deaths in the area. The matter is under investigation.”

“The Indian Army stands committed to extending full support and cooperation in the conduct of investigations,” the army posted on X.

The encounter started after terrorists fired at the two army vehicles passing through Dera Ki Gali in Rajouri’s Poonch region at 3.45 pm on Thursday.

“At around 3.45 pm on December 21, two Army vehicles carrying troops were moving to the operational site, which was fired upon by the terrorist. The fire was immediately retaliated upon by our troops,” an Army official said.

Indian Army troops immediately retaliated after being attacked by terrorists, they said.

“The troops were going to reinforce a joint operation against terrorists underway in the area since last evening. The operations are taking place in the 48 Rashtriya Rifles area,” Army officials added. (ANI)

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Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher systems

Defence Min Approves Rs 2800 Cr Rockets For Pinaka Weapon System

In a major boost for the Indian Army, the Defence Ministry has approved a Rs 2,800 crore proposal for buying around 6,400 rockets for Pinaka multi-barrel rocket launcher systems.

The Defence Ministry’s Defence Acquisition Council’s recent meeting had cleared the proposal for the acquisition of two types of these rockets, known as Area Denial Munition Type 2 and Type-3, defence sources told ANI.

The rockets would be procured by the Indian Army from indigenous sources only and two main contenders include the Economic Explosives Limited of Solar Industries and the Munitions India Limited– one of the ammunition-producing companies created by the corporatisation of the erstwhile Ordnance Factories, they said.

The Indian-made Pinaka weapon system, named after the bow of Hindu god Shiva, has been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation.

The weapon system is one of the first few Indian military terms to have been exported to foreign countries, including Armenia.

Private sector companies involved in the project include Larsen & Toubro, Tata Defence and Economic Explosives Limited.

have set up production lines for the Pinaka system that are being supplied in bulk to the armed forces.

As part of larger artillery modernisation plans, the army has a requirement of 22 regiments of the Pinaka MBRL.

Pinaka regiments of the Indian Army include launchers with automated gun aiming and positioning systems and command posts.

The trials of the Pinaka rockets have also been conducted recently by the forces in Pokharan firing ranges in Rajasthan and multiple successful test firings have been carried out during these tests. (ANI)

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Indian Army

Army To Boost Firepower With 200 New Mounted Howitzers, 400 Towed Gun Systems

In a bid to boost its mobile firepower in high-altitude border areas like Line of Actual Control with China the Indian Army is soon going to issue a tender for acquiring 200 new mounted howitzers equipped with 105 mm guns.

A tender is set to be issued soon to Indian firms for this ‘Make in India’ project to buy 200 new mounted howitzers equipped with 105 mm 37 calibre guns, defence sources told ANI.

This would be the first time that the Indian artillery would have these type of 105 mm mounted howitzers and would add to the strength of the formations deployed in forward positions, they said.

The Indian Army is modernising the artillery through the indigenous route using the capabilities of the Indian firms as the Indian industry has developed capabilities in this field and is now even exporting these systems to foreign countries.

Along with the 200 mounted howitzers, the Defence Ministry is also soon going to take up the case of clearing procurement of 400 new towed guns under the Make in India route.

The proposal for procuring 400 towed artillery gun systems is expected to come up for discussion in the Defence Acquisition Council meeting scheduled for November 30.

Indian Army’s Regiment of Artillery is looking to use the expertise of Indian Industry to produce 155 mm/52 calibre Towed Gun System, which will be lighter, versatile and cater for future technological advancements.

The Indian Army has already issued a tender for buying 307 Advanced Towed Artillery Gun Systems (ATAGS) along with one for finding a mounted gun system for its requirements along borders with China and Pakistan.

The Indian Designed, Developed and Manufactured howitzer would mean that it would be totally Indian in all ways. The Army wants the guns to be lighter in weight and easier to deploy in high-altitude areas like the older Bofors guns.

The procurement process is part of the Army plan for Mediumisation with indigenous guns and is likely to be completed by the year 2042. In the last decade, four contracts have been concluded for the procurement of a 155 mm howitzer. These Gun Systems have already been inducted and more Regiments are being equipped with these guns.

These gun systems include Dhanush, Sharang, Ultra Light Howitzer (ULH) and K-9 Vajra Self Propelled Guns. Dhanush Guns are an electronic upgrade of Bofors Guns, while the Sharang Guns have been up-gunned from 130mm to 155mm calibre.

Seven Regiments have already been equipped with ULHs while five have been equipped with self-propelled guns. (ANI)

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Uttarkashi tunnel

Army’s Engineer Regiment Called In For Manual Drilling At Uttarkashi

A unit of Madras Sappers, an engineer group of the Corps of Engineers of the Indian Army has been called in at Uttarkashi’s Silkyara tunnel for manual drilling at the site where 41 workers have remained trapped for the past 15 days.

30 personnel of the engineer regiment have arrived at the spot to expedite the rescue operations.

For manual drilling, the Indian Army along with civilians will do rat boring inside the tunnel.

“To do manual drilling, the Indian Army along with civilians will dig out the debris inside the tunnel with weapons like hands, hammers and chisels and then the pipe will be pushed forward from the platform built inside the pipe,” an official said.

The official further stated that 41 people were safe and stable inside the tunnel.

Earlier today, the plasma cutter arrived and began cutting the machine stuck in the pipeline.

An official said that if the American Auger machine is removed from the pipeline by plasma cutters by evening, then the tunnel work can be completed in 15 hours.

Officials also informed that the rescue team engaged in the rescue operation has now decided that the pipeline will be sent forward by digging at small distances through manual drilling.

“Even if there is any obstruction in this process, that problem will be solved manually and the pipeline will be sent further to some distance,” they said.

Also, the drone cameras are being used by experts to monitor the rescue operation that is underway here to bring out the 41 trapped workers.

Meanwhile, Union Minister General VK Singh reached the Silkyara tunnel site on Sunday where the rescue operation is underway to bring out the trapped workers.

After a portion of the tunnel caved in on November 12, the debris falling in the 60-metre stretch on the Silkyara side of the tunnel trapped 41 labourers inside the under-construction structure. (ANI)

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Indian Soldiers

Indian Soldiers Role In WWI Brought To Life In Army Museum Expo In London

The National Army Museum is currently highlighting the critical contribution of the British Indian Army during the First World War through a temporary exhibition titled “British Indian Army: Soldiers of the First World War.”

Created together with the United Service Institution of India, the display “Looks at the history of the British Indian Army and its Indian soldiers in the First World War,” explained Julian Farrance, Liaison Officer at the museum. It highlights their “absolutely vital” role across multiple fronts and campaigns, he emphasized.

“The history of the British Indian Army is very key to the National Army Museum,” Farrance stated, noting that some of the museum’s first collections were of Indian soldiers.

“We wanted to look at that specifically in this temporary exhibition and particularly at the history of the First World War,” he said.

Nearly 1.4 million Indian men served in the Great War (World War I), making up the largest volunteer force ever assembled at the time. The exhibition brings to life their indispensable service from 1914 to 1918 in major theatres like the Western Front, Gallipoli, and Mesopotamia as well as lesser-known Asian fronts.

Featuring photographs, artwork reproductions, documents and medals of Indian soldiers, the exhibition shows that “We (Great Britain) would not be able to prosecute the war the way that we do without their contribution,” Farrance emphasized.

Though the role of Indian troops is “a subject that tends to be overlooked” in the UK’s popular memory of the war, Farrance said: “Looking at that contribution and putting it into these kinds of exhibitions is something that we do very regularly at the museum to provide a more complete historical picture.”

“There are so many different contributing countries that put soldiers into the British Army throughout its long history. But one of the most important ones is the contribution of Indian soldiers,” Farrance said, stating that the museum continually highlights the role of the British Indian Army.

The exhibition opened in August and will run through till November 5, spotlighting a vital part of the museum’s origins and collections. (ANI)

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