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Agniveers will be the real winners

The current average age of a solider is 32 which is young by civilian standards, but old by Army standards, particularly when one aspires to be a world-class Army. An Agniveer would walk in society with the confidence of an empowered young man.

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Who will decide what is good for the Armed forces? Definitely it is not the people who have come on the streets to oppose the new recruitment policy. Definitely it is not the Opposition parties that are trying to find out fault with everything that the Narendra Modi government does.

Department of Military Affairs Additional Secretary Lieutenant General Anil Puri addresses a press conference regarding the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme, at South Block Ministry of Defence, in New Delhi on Sunday. Vice Admiral Dinesh Tripathi and Air Marshal Suraj Kumar Jha are also seen. ANI

Then who will decide? Of course, it is the Armed forces that will decide what kind of equipment they need to keep pace with the technologically advanced world. They would also decide the kind of men needed to perform the prestigious task. The need of the hour is able-bodied youth, uncorrupted by the influence of society and keen to do something for the country.

The institution is such that it would transform these youth into well trained individuals expert in use of firearms and modern technology. The “Agniveer” title suggests the same. They are the fire warriors the country needs to handle its strategic defence. Winning war is a sum-total of technology and youthful energy. The government’s job then becomes that of the facilitator. Within the resources available what is the best way out. And once the best way is decided the job remains to walk the talk and stand by the armed forces like a rock. This is exactly what the Narendra Modi government is doing.

The Opposition parties that have tried to fan the anger of people are playing with fire. Leave the Army out of your politics and listen to what the institution is telling you. You want a fighting fit force or you want the Army to become a recruitment ground for unemployed youth. Close to 45,000 jobs per year in the army as Jawans is no solace in the country where jobs are needed in crores. For the uninitiated, the Kargil Review Committee set up after India’s breathtaking victory at Kargil had recommended a younger profile for the young recruits. The committee was set up in July 1999 and its report was tabled in Parliament in February 2000. While Kargil was a swan song for military genius of our brave soldiers who pushed back the Pakistanis, it was also marked for intelligence failures. How could the Pakistanis get ensconced so high on the mountains without getting noticed by anyone?

It was the young officers and jawans who made this victory possible. It was the most difficult battle since the enemies were firing from the top. But the bravery of our young soldiers snatched victory from what appeared to many to be an impossible task. A young army means an agile army and a daredevil effective army.

The current average age of a solider is 32 which is young by civilian standards, but old by Army standards, particularly when one aspires to be a world class army. It is not that people become ineffective between 25-40 since they are still young and there should be no discrimination on the basis of age. But the fact remains that as one grows in age, one is faced with various responsibilities of home and family. This hinders soldiering when compared to a 25-year-old who is free from all fetters and wants to rise in life by showing example.

Close to 50,000 soldiers retire every year at the age of 35-40. They are at the peak of their youth and have a family to support. The army organises retraining and skilling of these people to give them a second career. Under the Agnipath scheme, the Agniveers who would join at 18 would retire at 22 (after four years). With discipline of the army and an enhanced educational qualification, he would be in a much better situation to plan his career.

How many youth in our country get settled by the age of 25? He is hardly able to understand the society and ends up becoming a burden till he finds a petty job to support his family. How many rural families can support higher education for their children to empower them to get six-figure salary? And how many people in this country would get that kind of salary? An Agniveer would walk in society with the confidence of an empowered young man and he would be able to decide what is best for him.

Not only will he earn close to Rs 20 lakh as salary in the four years of his dedicated service, he will also get the training of a world-class army. If he continues to prove his worth and has the fire to be a soldier, he would definitely qualify for being retained in the permanent tenure. Twenty-five percent absorption is a very high percentage.

Now consider that he does not make it to the 25%. With experience and exposure, he may not even want to continue. Some may find that the rigours of hard work and demand from the family do not match. He has the best of both the worlds. He walks away with a non-taxable amount of Rs 11.5 lakh. He can start something on his own with banks ready to give liberal loans in viable schemes. Or he can plan his second innings when his peers have not ever started their first.

He has the option to try various para-military forces under the Central government or state police or various other organisations. Most BJP-ruled states have announced they would give preference to recruiting Agniveers in their police force. This opens up immense possibilities. They would definitely score better than average candidates because of their skill, physical fitness, discipline and the fact that they have already served in the army.

Army should not be seen as a job-opportunity but a platform for youth to serve the country. The opportunities provided by Agnipath would enable youth to give vent to their aspiration. This would be a process by which youth would join, get training and serve the army as battle ready Agniveers and would exit the system after four years to explore greener pastures. They will have an edge over others.

Under the Agnipath scheme, the young man is still in his teens. He has a strong body that can sustain hard work and discipline. What he would get from the army is training on firearms and various other skills and most important the feeling of patriotism and national pride. This would be a deadly cocktail of muscle power and firepower combined with the willingness to sacrifice for motherland.

Those who cry over the security of tenure and assurance of another career that motivates people to join the army are missing the ideology behind the Agnipath Scheme. You come out young and join the same peer in your village and notice the transformation you have witnessed. The empowerment is the assurance.

The Agnipath scheme should also be seen in the context of India’s security needs. India is not lucky to have easy neighbours. It is also not lucky to have a NATO kind of military alliance that ensures safe boundary and gives guarantee of security. There was a time when our leaders thought that India did not need a big army since it did not have enemies. But history proved otherwise.

The Pakistan war immediately after independence and China in 1962 proved that two capricious neighbours could not be trusted. One has been sulking for becoming a failed state though both India and Pakistan started their journeys together; and the other has been blinded by its expansionist design where it sees India as a threat. India has marched ahead and now has the third largest army in the world after China and the US. It has been able to hold its head high without compromising on its principles because of its strengths. It is time we decide that the numbers get the boost of agility and flexibility needed in the high-tech oriented warfare.

If you watch the discussions of Agnipath Recuritment Scheme on Pakistani news channels you would know how this has sent chills down the spine of those Pakistanis who consider India to be their enemy. The common refrain is our army would be no match to Indians. They have been arguing that Modi has done for the country what no other leader has done before. He would wrest PoK from Pakistan and destroy Pakistan is the narrative there.

But Indians are debating and taking demonstrations by youth as a symbol of opposition to the Modi government. The Modi government has tried to implement the recommendations of various committees that looked into giving the armed forces a much younger profile. The need is to bring it down from an average of 32 years at the present to 25-26 years in times to come.

Those who are trying to stoke protest should know that the government has all the wisdom to understand implications of this scheme. It is just that the Prime Minister believes in taking decisions rather than keep things hanging. Everyone knows that the situation of the armed forces when the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had to demit office was not very pleasant. It did not have ammunition to sustain a war for even 20 days.

It is not that people become ineffective between 25-40 since they are still young and there should be no discrimination on the basis of age. But the fact remains that as one grows in age, one is faced with various responsibilities of home and family. This hinders soldiering when compared to a 25-year-old who is free from all fetters and wants to rise in life by showing example. Close to 50,000 soldiers retire every year at the age of 35-40. They are at the peak of their youth and have a family to support. The army organises retraining and skilling of these people to give them a second career.

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Tesla eyes India market as Elon Musk makes bold AI prediction

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In a recent X Spaces session with Nicolai Tangen, CEO of Norges Bank Investment Management, Tesla CEO Elon Musk emphasized the importance of electric vehicles (EVs) in India, stating that it’s a natural progression for every country to embrace them. Musk highlighted India’s status as the most populous country globally and stressed that electric cars should be accessible to Indian consumers like they are in other parts of the world.

Musk’s comments coincide with Tesla’s intensified efforts to expand its presence in the Indian market. Sources reveal that the state governments of Maharashtra and Gujarat have extended enticing land offers to Tesla for the establishment of a cutting-edge EV manufacturing plant. The proposed investment for this venture ranges between USD 2 billion to USD 3 billion, demonstrating Tesla’s commitment to both domestic and international markets.

This move aligns with India’s new EV policy, which aims to attract investments from global EV manufacturers and promote the adoption of advanced EV technology among Indian consumers. The policy emphasizes the importance of domestic value addition (DVA) and sets specific localization targets for manufacturers establishing operations in India.

To incentivize investment, the government has introduced measures such as customs duty exemptions and import quotas for EVs based on the level of investment made by manufacturers. These initiatives aim to position India as a preferred destination for EV manufacturing and contribute to the country’s Make in India initiative.

In anticipation of these developments, Tesla plans to dispatch a team of experts to explore suitable locations across India for the proposed manufacturing facility. Musk’s previous statement about visiting India in 2024 further underscores the company’s eagerness to enter the Indian market and collaborate with local stakeholders.

Tesla’s expansion into India represents a significant step forward in the global EV landscape and underscores the company’s commitment to sustainable transportation solutions. With India poised to become a key market for electric vehicles, Tesla’s entry is expected to drive innovation and accelerate the adoption of EVs in the country.

As the electric vehicle market continues to evolve, Tesla’s entry into India holds the potential to reshape the automotive industry and contribute to India’s transition towards a greener and more sustainable future.

Tesla’s entry into the Indian market not only signifies a pivotal moment for the country’s automotive industry but also presents an opportunity for Tesla to capitalize on India’s growing demand for electric vehicles. With the Indian government’s focus on promoting clean energy initiatives and reducing carbon emissions, Tesla’s electric vehicles align perfectly with India’s sustainable development goals.

Moreover, Tesla’s presence in India is expected to stimulate job creation and economic growth, particularly in the manufacturing sector. The establishment of a state-of-the-art manufacturing plant will not only provide employment opportunities for local residents but also foster the development of ancillary industries and supply chains.

In addition to manufacturing, Tesla’s entry into India is poised to catalyze advancements in EV infrastructure and technology. As Tesla vehicles become more accessible to Indian consumers, there will be a corresponding need for charging infrastructure and support services. This presents opportunities for collaboration with local businesses and government agencies to build a robust EV ecosystem.

Furthermore, Tesla’s entry into India could spur competition and innovation in the domestic automotive market, encouraging other manufacturers to invest in electric vehicle technology. This competition could lead to advancements in battery technology, vehicle performance, and affordability, ultimately benefiting consumers.

Overall, Tesla’s decision to establish a manufacturing presence in India reflects the country’s growing importance in the global automotive industry and underscores India’s potential as a key market for electric vehicles. As Tesla’s footprint expands across the country, its impact on India’s economy, environment, and technological landscape is expected to be profound.

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Air India, BIAL Partner to Create South India’s Top Aviation Hub

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Air India and Tata Group airlines will partner with BIAL to improve airport services and connectivity at Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, including setting up an exclusive lounge for premium passengers.

Air India and Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) have entered into an agreement aimed at bolstering Bengaluru’s status as a premier aviation hub for southern India. The collaboration seeks to enhance air travel connectivity to and from India over the next five years.

Under the agreement, Air India, along with other Tata Group airlines such as AIX and Vistara, will work closely with BIAL to improve international connectivity, operational efficiency, and passenger experience at Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru (KIAB or BLR airport). This includes plans to strengthen the group’s presence at the airport and establish a dedicated domestic lounge for premium and frequent travelers of Tata Group airlines.

Furthermore, Air India has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Government of Karnataka to develop maintenance, repair, and overhaul (MRO) facilities at the Bengaluru airport. This partnership aims to stimulate the MRO ecosystem and create over 1,200 new job opportunities in the state.

Campbell Wilson, CEO and MD of Air India, emphasized the importance of airline-airport synergy in enhancing customer experience and operational efficiency. He expressed enthusiasm for strengthening Air India’s relationship with BIAL and expanding its presence at the airport, as well as establishing a major MRO center.

Hari Marar, MD and CEO of Bangalore International Airport Limited, highlighted the BLR airport’s commitment to becoming the international gateway in Southern and Central India. He stated that the collaboration with Air India aligns with the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s vision of developing Indian airports as hubs and aims to enhance the passenger experience. Marar also expressed ambitions to capture a significant share of long-haul routes from Bengaluru Airport over the next five years.

In related news, Air India announced the appointment of Jayaraj Shanmugam as its Head of Global Airport Operations, effective April 15. Shanmugam, who previously served as the chief operating officer (COO) at BIAL, brings extensive experience to his new role.

The collaboration between Air India and BIAL represents a significant milestone in the transformation of Bengaluru into a key aviation hub in the region. By leveraging each other’s strengths and resources, the partnership aims to not only enhance air connectivity but also contribute to the economic growth of Karnataka by generating job opportunities through the establishment of MRO facilities.

Jayaraj Shanmugam’s appointment as the Head of Global Airport Operations further solidifies Air India’s commitment to optimizing its airport operations and providing a seamless travel experience for passengers. His extensive experience in airport management, coupled with his previous role at BIAL, positions him well to drive operational excellence and efficiency within the airline.

As the aviation industry continues to evolve, alliances between airlines and airports are becoming increasingly vital to meet the growing demands of travelers and enhance overall competitiveness. The strategic collaboration between Air India and BIAL sets a precedent for future partnerships in the aviation sector, emphasizing the importance of cooperation and synergy to achieve common goals.

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March sees strong growth in Indian pharma market, up by 9.5%

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The Indian pharmaceutical market (IPM) experienced a notable 9.5 percent increase in sales in March, reflecting robust value growth across various therapy segments, except for respiratory. According to data from research firm Pharmarack, all therapies demonstrated positive value growth, contributing to the overall expansion of the market.

Sheetal Sapale, Vice President-Commercial at Pharmarack, noted that while many pharmaceutical companies showed double-digit value growth, unit growth remained a challenge. The growth in sales during March was primarily driven by value growth and new introductions, particularly in the anti-diabetic segment.

Several factors contributed to the uptick in sales, including new product introductions and patent expiries. For instance, there were multiple launches in the hematinic market following the loss of exclusivity rights for iron supplement Orofer FCM in October 2023. Additionally, patent expiries for drugs like Linagliptin and Dulaglutide further fueled competition in the anti-diabetic segment.

In March, Alkem emerged as one of the few companies reporting positive unit and value growth, with a 15.1 percent increase in value and an 11.3 percent increase in units sold. Other key players such as Cadilla, Fourrts, and Natco Pharma also witnessed double-digit value and unit growth during the month.

The top-selling medicine brands in March included Glaxo Smith Kline’s Augmentin and USV’s Glycomet GP, with Augmentin achieving sales of Rs 73 crore. Despite facing challenges in unit growth, Augmentin reported a 10 percent increase in value sales. Mankind’s Manforce condom brand retained its position as the third top-selling brand, despite negative unit and value growth.

Cipla’s Foracort inhaler maintained its fourth position in the respiratory segment, with sales totaling Rs 50 crore. Abbott’s Type 2 diabetes/weight management drug Rybelsus demonstrated remarkable growth, with a double-digit value growth rate of 7 percent and a staggering 75 percent increase in units sold in March.

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McDonald’s buys all Israeli franchise restaurants amid boycotts

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Aljazeera said that McDonald’s announced it will purchase its 30-year-old Israel franchise from Alonyal Ltd., taking back control of 225 outlets that employ more than 5,000 people. After US fast-food business Alonyal announced that it would be giving free meals to the Israeli soldiers in response to the October 7 bombing by Palestinian group Hamas, there were protests and boycotts. While McDonald’s is a global corporation, its franchises are typically locally owned and operate independently. Its CEO, Chris Kempczinski, said previously that the company had seen “meaningful business impact” in several markets in the Middle East and some outside the region due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, as per Aljazeera.

“For more than 30 years, Alonyal Limited has been proud to bring the Golden Arches to Israel and serve our communities,” Omri Padan, CEO and owner of Alonyal, said in a statement on Thursday. According to Aljazeera, McDonald’s added that it “remains committed to the Israeli market and to ensuring a positive employee and customer experience in the market going forward.” Following the transaction’s completion in the coming months, McDonald’s will assume ownership of Alonyal’s outlets and operations, maintaining its current workforce. However, the terms of the transaction were not disclosed by the companies involved. In February, Kempczinski said that the war had had a “disheartening” effect on sales in Middle Eastern countries and other Muslim-majority nations such as Malaysia and Indonesia. “So long as this conflict, this war, is going on, we’re not expecting to see any significant improvement in this,” Kempczinski said in a conference call. “It’s a human tragedy, what’s going on, and I think that does weigh on brands like ours.”

During October–December, sales growth for the fast-food chain’s Middle East, China, and India division was only 0.7 percent, significantly lower than market projections of 5.5 percent. This decline follows calls for a McDonald’s boycott by customers in Muslim countries, prompted by Alonyal’s announcement. Consequently, franchisees in nations like Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia distanced themselves from the donations, collectively pledging millions of dollars in aid to Palestinians in Gaza.

While Chicago-based McDonald’s is known as one of the United States’ most iconic brands, most of its restaurants worldwide are locally owned and operated. Another prominent Western fast-food chain, Starbucks, has also faced boycott campaigns due to its perceived pro-Israeli stance and alleged financial ties to Israel. CEO Laxman Narasimhan told journalists in February that Starbucks saw a “significant impact on traffic and sales” in the Middle East but also in the US, where protesters campaigned against the Seattle-based company, calling for it to take a stand against Israel.

Domino’s, a US-based pizza maker with franchises around the world, also faced blowback after posts on social media claimed without evidence that it had also given free food to Israeli soldiers. The brand’s same-store sales dipped by 8.9 percent in Asia in the second half of 2023, mainly because consumers in Malaysia associated it with the US, an Israeli ally, a company official said.

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Disney CEO targets password-sharing, following Netflix

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Disney CEO Bob Iger has revealed plans to tackle password-sharing on the company’s streaming platform, set to commence in June. Iger stressed in a CNBC interview the importance of consolidating the streaming industry, with the initiative aimed at boosting subscriber growth and improving profitability. He articulated aspirations for achieving double-digit margins for the business.

This move mirrors actions taken by streaming giant Netflix, which experienced a substantial surge in subscribers after cracking down on password-sharing, surpassing Wall Street’s expectations by adding nearly 22 million subscribers in the latter half of last year.

Iger’s announcement closely follows a proxy battle against Disney’s activist investors, including Nelson Peltz, who had criticized Disney’s performance in the streaming-television sector. Reflecting on the outcome of the proxy vote, Iger expressed satisfaction with the resounding endorsement of the board’s strategies, particularly concerning CEO succession. Moreover, Iger has also hinted at ongoing plans regarding partnerships for ESPN.

The victory in the proxy battle strengthens Iger’s position as Disney endeavors to revitalize its film and television franchises, achieve profitability in its streaming division, and establish partnerships for ESPN’s digital expansion.

Last year, Netflix expanded its crackdown on password-sharing to over 100 countries, extending beyond the United States. As part of its efforts to address market saturation and explore new revenue avenues, the platform implemented restrictions on password-sharing and introduced a subscription option supported by ads.

Emails were sent out to customers in 103 countries and territories, including key markets such as the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Mexico, and Brazil, in May 2023. These emails reiterated Netflix’s policy that accounts should only be used within a single household.

To ease the transition, Netflix provides paying customers with the option to add an extra member from outside their household for a supplementary monthly fee. In the United States, this fee amounts to $8 (Rs 660). Members are also given the ability to transfer a person’s profile to maintain their viewing history and personalized recommendations, ensuring a seamless experience.

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India’s Ayurveda market to reach Rs 1.2 trillion by FY28

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The Ayurveda product market in India is poised for substantial growth, with projections indicating a remarkable increase in market value to Rs 1,20,660 crore ($16.27 billion) by FY28 from the current Rs 57,450 crore ($7 billion), according to a study conducted by Ayurveda tech startup NirogStreet.

The surge in the Ayurveda product market can be attributed to several factors, including the escalating demand for natural and herbal remedies both domestically and internationally. Additionally, the rise in the number of Ayurvedic medical practitioners, coupled with government initiatives and the emergence of new entrepreneurs in the sector, has further fueled the market’s expansion.

NirogStreet’s survey revealed that the overall market for Ayurveda products and services is expected to grow at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 15 percent from FY23 to FY28. Specifically, the product and service sectors are anticipated to witness growth rates of 16 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively, during this period.

The survey also shed light on the Ayurvedic manufacturing landscape in India, estimating its value at Rs 89,750 crore ($11 billion) in FY22. This figure encompasses the value of exports, amounting to around Rs 40,900 crore ($5 billion), with imports estimated at Rs 8,600 crore ($1 billion).

Participation in the survey was significant, with approximately 7,500 manufacturers from 10 states, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir, and Kerala.

At a recent CII AYUSH Conclave, Padmashri Vaidya Rajesh Kotecha, Secretary, Ministry of AYUSH, emphasized the importance of positioning AYUSH products in global markets and fostering innovation within the ecosystem. He highlighted that the AYUSH sector has witnessed remarkable growth, reaching $24 billion in a span of 10 years.

In light of this exponential growth trajectory, NirogStreet underscored the significant potential of the Ayurveda product market to become a key contributor to India’s economy.

The recent surge in the Ayurveda product market underscores a broader global trend towards holistic and natural wellness solutions. As consumers increasingly prioritize health and well-being, Ayurveda’s ancient wisdom and emphasis on holistic healing are gaining traction worldwide.

India’s rich heritage in Ayurveda positions it as a global leader in this burgeoning industry. The country’s vast array of medicinal herbs, traditional knowledge, and skilled practitioners serve as key assets in driving the growth of the Ayurveda sector. However, amidst the promising growth prospects, challenges persist, including the need for stringent quality control measures, standardization of products, and greater awareness about Ayurveda’s efficacy. Addressing these challenges will be crucial in ensuring the sustainable growth of the industry and maintaining consumer trust.

The endorsement of Ayurveda by government authorities and the proactive role of industry stakeholders in promoting innovation and research are essential steps towards realizing the full potential of the sector. In conclusion, the projected growth of India’s Ayurveda product market signifies a transformative shift towards holistic wellness and natural remedies. With concerted efforts from both public and private sectors, the Ayurveda industry is poised to emerge as a significant driver of economic growth while enriching lives with its time-tested principles of well-being.

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