Agnipath Schedule: The huge uproar surrounding the Agnipath scheme, which was rolled out on June 14, 2022, reached its peak when Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Rahul Gandhi shared a video of fallen Agniveer’s father Ajay Singh, refuting Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s claims that they had not received any compensation from the Centre as promised under the scheme. He also sought scrapping of the scheme.

Meanwhile, both the Defence Ministry and the Indian Army have claimed that the family of Agniveer, who was killed in a landmine explosion in Jammu and Kashmir’s Naushera sector in January this year, has been given compensation of Rs 98.29 lakh, while an additional Rs 67 lakh will be paid after “necessary investigation and internal procedures”, the Defence Ministry said in informal submissions to the media.

“This is to dispel certain misleading reports appearing in a section of media regarding compensation received by the family of Agniveer Ajay Singh after his unfortunate demise. It may be noted that Agniveer Ajay Singh died in a landmine explosion in January earlier this year in Naushera sector. His family has so far received compensation of Rs 98,39,000. After completion of necessary investigation and internal procedures, they will receive an additional amount of Rs 67 lakhs,” the Defence Ministry said.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on X on Wednesday: “The Indian Army is committed to the welfare of Agniveers!”

Singh, who was from Ludhiana, was on routine patrol when the blast occurred. Two other Indian Army soldiers were also injured in the blast. Singh, who was 23 when he was killed near the Line of Control (LoC), was survived by his parents and six sisters.

In support of MoD’s claims, the Indian Army also issued a statement saying, “Out of the total amount due, the family of Agniveer Ajay has already received Rs 98.39 lakhs. Ex – Gratia and other benefits worth approximately 67 lakhs, as applicable under the provisions of Agniveer Scheme, will be paid in the final settlement soon after the due police verification. The total amount will be approximately Rs 1.65 Cr.”

The army also said that Singh’s last rites were performed with full military honours.

“It is reiterated that the emoluments due to a fallen hero be promptly paid to the next of kin of deceased soldiers, including Agniveers,” the army added.

The Defence Ministry and the Indian Army were responding to a message shared by Gandhi on X late on Wednesday night after the parliament session ended, in which Agniveer Singh’s father had rejected the defence minister’s claims in Parliament on Monday and said they were not getting any compensation. He also asked for the scheme to be scrapped.

The family had earlier alleged that they received compensation only from the Punjab government and not from the Centre.

“The Defence Minister has lied to Parliament, to the family of martyred Ajay Singh, to the Agniveers, to the Indian Army and to the youth of the country,” Gandhi said in the post.

Agniveres as ‘disposable workers’

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Gandhi clashed in Parliament on Monday over the compensation paid to Agniveers as compared to a regular soldier in the Indian armed forces.

Gandhi accused the Narendra Modi government of not thinking through the plan properly and of treating the Agniveren as “disposable workers” by not giving them the status of “shaheed” (martyr).

The Defence Minister vehemently denied Gandhi’s allegations and tried to defend the plan, which had been revealed by him, saying that the family had been compensated. He said:

Under the Agnipath scheme, the age limit for applicants should be between 17.5 and 21 years. After completing four years of service, only 25 percent of the Agniveers will be inducted into the armed forces, while the remaining 75 percent will be sent home with a final package of Rs. 11.71 lakhs, exempt from taxes, also known as the Seva Nidhi Fund. This is a one-time payment that Agniveers receive. In comparison, a soldier in the Indian Army gets a lifetime pension.

So far, around 53,000 Agniveers have either been inducted into the tri-services – Army, Navy and Air Force – or are undergoing training. In case of death in the line of duty, an Agniveer receives a lump sum compensation of Rs. 1 crore, salary for the remaining period of up to four years of service and the Seva Nidhi Fund.

On the other hand, the common soldier gets a plethora of emoluments including Rs. 50 lakh insurance, Rs. 25-45 lakh ex-gratia, reservation in government jobs and support for children’s education, besides several other benefits.