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Value education through volunteering for armed forces – The Agniveers


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Armed forces are respected as the most reliable, honest and disciplined organization in our country. Their loyalty and commitment to the nation cannot be questioned and is above board.

Almost two decades back I was with an actor friend in Mumbai and spent half a day on the sets of a movie being shot- a mainstream Bollywood stuff. On the set I had the opportunity to have lunch and a chat with one of the India’s top actors. We were discussing all sorts of things and we came to the subject of ‘National Character’ and he said ‘I feel every young man or woman must get a taste of army as this would build national character.  ‘Yaar fauj main who ek aadmi ko Banda bana detey hain’ (In the army they make you a complete man). This does remind me of a similar tag line of Raymond’s- A complete man.  Only difference is in one case a fine fabric makes you a complete man, here a fine culture and sweat makes you a complete man with a strong fabric. It was not possible for everyone to get army training as it was an expensive proposition and we as a developing nation will not be able to afford that and we left it at that.

Similar discussions are held in drawing rooms and cocktail parties where the elite say that army service must be made compulsory so that we have some semblance of discipline and patriotism in our society. That also goes up in the thin air once you drive back home and the party is over.

Today’s scenario

If I use filmy terminology and say ‘cut to today’, the problem has magnified many fold in the last two decades. Some of us even say that we have no national character and that may not be an entirely wrong statement.

We have thrown values and character out of the window as if nothing has happened. Youth are burning buses, have no regard for law or elders or even the authority. Stone pelting and brutally murdering someone for strangest of the reasons baffles your mind. News is full of this, TV, radio or newspapers and most just shrug it off and say ‘Very sad’ kya karen yaar and move on.

Schools are struggling to discipline students, parents are fed up as kids don’t listen to them and most parents not even cooperate with school staff in disciplining their children!

First thing first, the powers that be must bring value education to the forefront. This should take precedence over even Math and Science. I can accept 10% less engineer but I cannot accept and will not accept a man or woman with character diminished by 10%. Will you hire a peon who is a cheat or who cannot be trusted? Nah- never. How else do you tame a rowdy society? People are manhandling the police, stoning the army, murdering in day light burning government property, students protesting for nothing and have the audacity to gherao a Vice Chancellor or even Vandalize VC office, the list is long.

According to me you cannot outsource values to parents and teachers alone. We need to find other sustainable methods however drastic. You cannot do it overnight but it can be done over a period. Let me tell you today industry is struggling to find a ‘willing worker’. People want to jump jobs as you change your socks. A guy wants a well-paying job which is comfortable, loaded with goodies and no questions asked, must get full respect whether I work or not. My foot.’Baap ka raaj hai kya’? At the same time a man in uniform guards your nation within and from external aggression for not so great a salary, away from family and comfort in deserts jungles or in snow at freezing subzero temperatures. ‘Usmey aisa kya hai Jo tum may nahi hai?’ it is one word ‘Character’.

The way forward- Men in uniform

Even if you add a small number of men and women with character to this 1.3 billion population, it’s a great beginning. Let me give an analogy to get the point registered. You add one spoon of curd to one Kilo milk and next day you get one Kilo sweet tasty curd. Character and good culture is like a spoon of curd which we call ‘jaag, Jamun or Khatta’ or starter in English.

If you cannot put the entire youth through a military or uniformed fraternity then a few such good men and women as ‘Agniveers’ discharged after around four years in uniform will act like a starter or a Jamun for the rest of the youth! 46000 disciplined bodies in a mass of a billion undisciplined may be a drop in the ocean- but friend jaag in milk to make curd is also a drop in the ocean. You need only one good sperm to create life. Finally what do you produce from a college in three years? A graduate who is unemployable, has big demands, a bigger ego, nothing in him close to discipline and nothing to write home about.

Without going into too much of detail about the benefits to an Agniveer, let me say that in the fourth year of service he/she gets Rs 40000/- Per month – Rs 4.8 lack package per annum which even an MBA from a mid-level B school does not get (you are just 12th class pass and no great shake in academics). On top of it your contribution to the corpus along with equal contribution by the government fetches you a lump sum of 11.71 lacks which is tax free!

 It is pertinent to highlight that most of the routine day-to-day requirements including boarding, lodging, medical facilities etc. are looked after by the services hence Agniveer would not be required to spend any money on these aspects. In corporate parlance Cost to the company CTC will be much more than 4.8 lac per annum.  Therefore a package of 6 lacs PA is a great deal for a 12th class pass boy or girl.

Ok what is the alternative? Let us say the same person instead of joining Agniveer scheme after 12th class goes for a graduation degree. Where is the guarantee of a job after spending money and three years of college? You have no job, no money and no skill. You cannot even get up at 6 am and go for a walk forget running. You are sitting in cozy comfort of your home, twiddling your thumbs whats Apping  or chatting or busy on Instagram or uploading useless pictures on facebook. You are neither a help to your parents, nor to the society or the nation! You could be a PUBG warrior at most a PUBG veer. Or a gaming wreck.

Pakki naukri syndrome

World over, private sector works on ‘hire and fire’ they fire you faster than they hire you. A person goes through several rounds of interviews for  Rs 20000/- PM job but is fired without any interview in a few minutes. You may think you are good and well qualified but you are shown the door with maximum a month’s salary in hand. Wake up bro- this is life and don’t keep blaming the system or the government. Naukri Maat Mango- naukri ke layyak bano. (Don’t ask for a job, become job worthy first.)

I must have interviewed close to 1,0000 graduates and some of them don’t even know how to stand straight or look decently shaved and dressed up- and they all feel they are Rock stars.

They have no fire in the belly and not even any courage- no agni no veer.

Then there are National Rural Employment Guarantee (NREGA veers). The key selling point is guarantee- as people want guarantee. Though the scheme gives 100 days job guarantee, it has many operational problems and pilferages. Taking a cue from this one could rename the scheme to ‘guaranteed Agni’ (pun intended). 

The youth also get paid for throwing stones and creating riots in the country which is a sad part. You may get Rs 500 a day for throwing stones or burning public property. But does that make you a man? Far from it.

You are ready to work as a casual labor for 100 days for a meagre payment of Rs 200 to Rs 300/- per day (It is different for different states) which on an average gives you 100×250= 25,000 Rs a year and nothing more but you have a second thoughts for joining the army for a short stint all paid for and Rs 35,000 per month cash for 4 years! Along with 12 lacs in your hand!

Present state of affairs in the armed forces.

Things may look rosy from outside but a sepoy can earn his pension in 15 years and a sizeable number want to quit after mandatory pensionable service of 15 years! Indian Army is deployed in harsh conditions areas like jungles, snowbound mountains can be quite telling on an individual. Infantry is badly hit as there are long separations from family and today socio economic problems are such that people want to go home. Even if there is a reasonable number of soldiers who want to go after 15 years but are not allowed to leave, it becomes a situation like ‘A trained horse unwilling to run’. A trained sepoy could be retiring between 35 years to 40 years age. He is too old to get a great job in today’s job market where they want younger work force and too young to sit at home! It is a catch 22 situation. Agniveer will join the forces at around 18 to 21 years and will be released after 4 years at say 22 to 25 years age which is a fine age to start a new innings.

God gives the nuts, but he does not crack them for you

Franz Kafka

It all depends on you how you utilize this opportunity for your own good. I have seen Cadets boarded out medically from NDA doing extremely well outside in their civil careers.

Several short service officers who quit also did very well in their further careers.

Therefore keeping some hosh (the seasoned ones) and lots of josh (the greenhorns) could be a good idea.

I am sure the generals of today are as competent as generals of yester years who are finding holes in this policy today. So I am not even going there.

Intangibles are more tangible

Let me say something which might sound a bit harsh. Today parents have little control on their children and they want someone to help them. I have headed a B school for close to two decades and spoken to more than 2000 parents and most want their children to become smart, honest, and hardworking, disciplined. I was lucky that most parents supported our tough curriculum and a busy schedule. Mind you they paid for it.

Drug menace, getting too much too soon, and parental pampering, lazy lumpy life is creating a havoc in the society.

Today India is moving towards manufacturing and that would require more sweat than blood. Agniveers will be a willing disciplined force which can be trained and meet this shortfall to quickly ramp up our industrial might.

Agnipath is a path to a disciplined life. A boy becomes a worthy man in those most impressionable years.

I also look at this as creating a pool of reserve manpower which is disciplined and well trained to get mobilized quickly with a refresher training in case the nation needs them. One could watch this when Russia was planning to attack Ukraine and how civilian population was hurriedly summoned for military weapons training. Civilian self-defense training continued amid fears of a Russian invasion. Volunteers had joined former military personnel to learn how to handle weapons and administer first aid. Kyiv residents from diverse age groups came to the outskirts of the city to be trained in the basic knowledge of how to defend themselves and their loved ones.

Vriksh hoN bhale khade,
hoN ghane hoN bade,
Ek patra chhaNh bhi
maang mat, maang mat, maang mat,

Agnipath, Agnipath, Agnipath.

Tu na thakega kabhi
tu na thamega kabhi
tu na mudega kabhi,
Kar shapath, Kar shapath, Kar shapath
Agnipath, Agnipath, Agnipath.

Ye Mahaan Drishya hai,
Chal raha Manushya hai,
Ashru, swed, rakta se
Lathpath Lathpath Lathpath..
Agnipath, Agnipath, Agnipath.

Virender Kapoor
Virender Kapoor
Virender is an Indian who wears many hats. An educationist of repute, Masters in Computer Science from IIT Bombay, he also holds an MA in International relations. He was the Director of a prestigious management Institute under the Symbiosis umbrella. He has emerged as a leading think tank in human behavior, motivation and success. As a celebrity author, his name appears with the likes of Thomas Friedman and Dale Carnegie. His books are now available in eight regional and foreign languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati ,Telegu , Malayalam , Tamil, Punjabi and Vietnamese He has authored more than 36 books as of now which are on Amazon worldwide and several of his books are in the pipeline.


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