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Even as the nationwide protest against the newly rolled out armed forced recruitment scheme by the Indian Government- Agnipath- continued in various parts of the country, the three service chiefs of the Indian defense system met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday and briefed him on how they planned to implement the scheme.

The Agnipath scheme announced on 14 June seeks to recruit youngsters in the age bracket of 17-and-a-half to 21 years for a four-year period, with a provision to retain 25%of them for 15 more years. For 2022, the upper-age limit has been extended to 23 years.

Earlier the Department of Military Affairs also held a press conference on the Agnipath scheme and issued certain clarification and the schedule regarding the scheme.

"There will be no change in the recruitment process. What happened five years ago, what happened earlier, the same will continue," said Lieutenant General Anil Puri, the Additional Secretary in the defence ministry's Department of Military Affairs, during the media briefing.

At the briefing, top officials of the three services announced a detailed schedule of the recruitment process, asserting that there will be no compromise on the quality of the training to be imparted to the "Agniveers", though the duration of their training period would be compressed.

"The combat capabilities and readiness of the Indian Air Force are non-negotiable. The Indian Air Force and the government will do everything that is required to keep us combat-worthy and combat-ready," Air Officer-in-Charge of Personnel, Air Marshal S K Jha, said.

Lt Gen. Puri said the Agnipath scheme would add strength to the armed forces. Air Marshal Jha said there is "absolutely no change" in the IAF's process of induction, entry-level qualification, examination syllabus and medical standards for the recruits under the Agnipath scheme.

During the media briefing it was informed that all Agniveers, or soldiers recruited under the short term contractual recruitment scheme will be eligible for Paramveer and other gallantry awards. Further the official from the Indian Naval Forces also said that the Agniveers will get opportunity to join Merchant Navy after completing four-year training in the navy.

Later in the day, the three service chiefs met PM Modi. They briefed him on the Agnipath scheme and related issues against the backdrop of the ongoing protests against the new policy for military recruitment.

It is learnt that Army chief General Manoj Pande, Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari and Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar apprised Modi of the overall induction process and the steps being taken by them for a successful rollout of the scheme.

There was no official comment on the meetings.

The Centre has been strongly defending the scheme, saying the "transformative reform" measure for recruitment in the armed forces will provide an opportunity to youngsters to serve the country.

(With inputs from PTI)

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