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Will scrap ‘Agnipath’ scheme, revert to old recruitment scheme if voted to power: Congress

NEW DELHI: Stepping up its attack on the Union government over the “Agnipath” military recruitment scheme, the Congress alleged on Monday that “gross injustice” was done to youngsters and asserted that it would revert to the old recruitment system if voted to power at the Centre.

The opposition party also demanded that appointment be given to the about two lakh youngsters who had cleared the recruitment process but were not given joining letters as the “Agnipath” scheme was launched in 2022.

Congress chief Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to President Droupadi Murmu on Monday, highlighting the “gross injustice” done to the youngsters seeking regular employment in the armed forces due to the “Agnipath” scheme, and urged her to ensure justice for them.

The future of nearly two lakh young men and women has become uncertain due to the scrapping of the regular recruitment process in the armed forces, Kharge said in his letter to the president, who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

“There are many well-known issues with the Agnipath scheme. Former Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane has written that the Army was ‘taken by surprise’ by Agnipath and that ‘for the Navy and Air Force, it came like a bolt from the blue’,” he said in his letter to Murmu.

“Furthermore, the scheme is discriminatory among our jawans by creating parallel cadres of soldiers who are expected to work on similar tasks, but with very different emoluments, benefits and prospects. The majority of Agniveers will be released into an uncertain job market after four years of service, which some have argued could affect social stability,” Kharge said.

Tagging Kharge’s letter, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi said on X: “We are with the military candidates, who are full of patriotism and bravery, in the fight for justice.” Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra said with the spirit of patriotism and service in mind, lakhs of youngsters across the country work hard day and night. “Whether it is cold, hot or rainy, they wake up early in the morning and practise running. They think that they will join the Army, serve the country and also get employment. The BJP government crushed the dreams of lakhs of promising youth of the country by bringing Agnivir Yojana,” she said in a post on X.

“Lakhs of posts are vacant, crores of youth are unemployed — this is Modi’s guarantee,” she added.

Addressing a press conference at the AICC headquarters here, Congress general secretary Sachin Pilot said there was no demand for such a scheme.

“In the long term, this scheme will not benefit anybody except saving some money for the government of India. We in the Congress party feel that we should go back to the old recruitment system,” Pilot said.

If some changes are to be introduced to modernise the armed forces, that is very much possible in the current setup, but to completely eradicate the old system is not right, he added.

“It is closing avenues of employment. I think it has been done in an ad-hoc fashion, without much thought to the future prospects of how the Army would function. We in the Congress believe that the Agnipath programme is not a positive development and we will certainly go back to the old recruitment system when people vote us back,” Pilot said, with party leaders Pawan Khera and Deepender Hooda by his side.

Hooda said several military recruitment processes were completed during and before the outbreak of COVID-19 and only joining was left. But after the introduction of the “Agnipath” scheme, these youngsters selected by the government were not given joining letters.

“These youngsters met (former Congress chief) Rahul Gandhi and shared their pain. Since then, Rahulji has been continuously raising his voice,” he said.

On whose demand did the Narendra Modi government bring the “Agnipath Yojana”, Hooda asked.

“Neither the Army nor the youngsters joining the Army had put forward the demand for the scheme,” he said.

“When we asked what will the Agniveers do after four years of service, BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya had said those youngsters will be given the job of a watchman in the BJP office. I want to tell the BJP that the youngsters of the country join the Army with a sense of patriotism and not with a sense of becoming a watchman outside the BJP office,” Hooda said.

In his letter to the president, Kharge said he met the affected youngsters recently and they told him that between 2019 and 2022, almost two lakh young men and women were informed that they were accepted into the three armed services.

“These young men and women had struggled against all odds to pass gruelling mental and physical tests and a written exam. Until 31 May, 2022, they believed that they had fulfilled their dreams and were awaiting only their joining letters. On that day, their dreams were shattered by the Government of India’s decision to end this recruitment process and replace it with the Agnipath scheme,” Kharge said.

“Our youth cannot be allowed to suffer in this manner. I appeal to you to ensure that justice is done,” the Congress chief added.

The “Agnipath” scheme provides for recruiting youngsters in the age bracket of 17 years and a half to 21 years for a four-year period, with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years.

 

Source: Press Truswt of India

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