On the announcement that India would abolish open-ended contracts for new military recruits, trains burned and protestors clashed with security forces. At least one person was killed in the riots that occurred all over the country.
Under the new scheme labeled Agnipath (“Path of Fire”), the 40,000-50,000 annual armed forces recruits will be weeded out once more after four years, with only a quarter expected to be retained despite the selection process already being competitive. The frustration surfacing in the riots has been tied the fleeting opportunities young people in the Indian job market, where – according to The Washington Post – a quarter of those under 30 are unemployed and a lifelong military career remained one of the last safe havens for jobseekers looking for secure employment.
Behind the slimming down of the country’s armed forces is another reason, however – the enormous size of the Indian military at 1.4 million members, which is driving up salaries and pensions while keeping funds from being invested in technology needed for a modernizing force. According to numbers from the Indian Ministry of Finance Budget Office, the armed forces pension allotment had in the past grown faster than the military budget as a whole and made up a whopping 27 percent of it in the fiscal year ending March 2021, the latest final numbers on record.
In the fiscal year ending March 2022, the Indian military already hopes to have reduced pension payments to 24 percent of the budget, even though those final numbers are still outstanding. In the current fiscal year, a further reduction to 23 percent is planned.