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regular-article-logo Monday, 04 March 2024

Congress steps up protests against Agnipath recruitment scheme

Party holds 20 news conferences across the country, which will be followed by demonstrations in every district on Monday seeking withdrawal of 'Tughlaqi firman'

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 27.06.22, 01:50 AM
Shaktisinh Gohil.

Shaktisinh Gohil. File photo

The Congress on Sunday stepped up its protests against the Agnipath scheme by holding 20 news conferences across the country, which will be followed by demonstrations in every district on Monday seeking withdrawal of the “Tughlaqi firman” (whimsical diktat).

Party spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil suggested that neither defence minister Rajnath Singh nor the armed forces supported the scheme, under which soldiers will be recruited on contract and three-fourths of them will be demobbed after four years without pension or gratuity.

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The government’s defence is that the scheme will lower the average age in the armed forces. Gohil, however, said the late Chief of Defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, had suggested raising the retirement age for soldiers but Prime Minister Narendra Modi had gone against that advice.

“Modi takes such Tughlaqi decisions. Be it note-bandi or farm laws, he tries to impose his decisions on the country,” Gohil told the media in Delhi.

“Even the Agnipath scheme was announced by Modi through a tweet. Rajnath Singh only said that he thanked the Prime Minister for bringing in such a scheme. The three service chiefs were sent to defend the scheme only after violent protests across the country.”

Gohil said the majority of military experts, retired generals and decorated soldiers had expressed fear about the scheme.

He cited Param Vir Chakra awardee Captain Bana Singh’s criticism of Agnipath.

The former deputy chief of army staff, Lieutenant General Raj Kadian, on Sunday said: “Such a scheme wasn’t needed at all; this will harm the armed forces.”

General Kadian said contractual soldiers cannot develop the attachment to their unit that regular soldiers have. He predicted social problems too, saying the soldiers demobbed after four years would feel aggrieved.

Param Vir Chakra Yogendra Singh Yadav said: “This scheme will not do any good. I request the Prime Minister to stop experimenting with the armed forces.”

Yadav said the armed forces would not receive enough service from soldiers retiring after four years. He also questioned the emphasis on youth, arguing wars are fought with experience and professional knowledge.

Rahul Gandhi, who has predicted the Agnipath scheme will have to be withdrawn, attacked Modi over his politics of distraction from main issues.

“PM’s mastery in ‘Entire Distraction Science’ can’t hide these disasters * Rupee at 78/$ * $17 bn LIC value lost * WPI Inflation at 30yr high * Unemployment at all-time high * Largest ever bank fraud by DHFL. While Indians struggle, the PM is busy planning his next distraction,” he tweeted.

Priyanka Gandhi Vadra referred to a news report that suggested a massive jump in the number of contractual employees in the central government, from 11.11 lakh in 2017 to 24.31 lakh in 2021.

“The government is distributing largesse to crony capitalists through big contracts. Youth are not given permanent jobs; only contractual employment is available. The country will not tolerate the fraud on youth after the promise of creating two crore jobs every year,” she tweeted.

In Jaipur, Congress leader Deepender Hooda said: “The Prime Minister should shed his arrogance and listen to the mann ki baat (opinion) of the youth instead of forcing the country to listen to his Mann Ki Baat (Modi’s monthly radio broadcast).

“This government doesn’t believe in consultations. They don’t understand the aspirations and commitment of the youth. But we won’t allow the armed forces to be weakened and the careers of the youth to be destroyed.”

In Mumbai, Supriya Shrinate said the introduction of Agnipath when unemployment was at its peak amounted to rubbing salt in the wounds of the youth.

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