Protests against Agnipath scheme erupt in many cities
The protestors said that they have been waiting for regular recruitment for the armed forces, but the Centre has introduced the short-term duty scheme instead.
Protests erupted in several parts of the country against the Agnipath scheme on Wednesday, a day after the Centre announced the short-term recruitment plan to enlist young citizens into the armed forces.
Demonstrators blocked highways and railway lines to protest against the scheme in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow and in Buxar and Muzaffarpur in Bihar, reported NDTV. In Rajasthan, protestors blocked the Delhi-Jaipur highway, according to BBC.
The Agnipath scheme will allow citizens aged between 17 and-a-half and 21 years to serve in the armed forces for four years. After this, 25% of those recruited will be absorbed as a regular cadre of the armed forces.
Those recruited under the new scheme will get a monthly compensation, life insurance and a Rs 11.71 lakh financial package after they complete the four years. However, the soldiers will not be entitled to pension and gratuity.
The protestors said that they have been waiting for regular recruitments for the armed forces to resume but the Centre has introduced the Agnipath scheme instead. Regular recruitment were halted two years ago due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease.
One of the protestors expressed anger that the new scheme does not have any pension plans.
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Another protestor said that he had done a National Cadet Corps course for three years to join the military, and that it was unjustified that he would be unemployed for only four years under the new scheme. He also said that a pension plan should have been announced as part of the scheme.
“The government is playing a game with us like [video game] PUBG,” a protester told NDTV. “No Bharatiya Janata Party leader has said anything even when their government has been holding back recruitment for so long. We will continue to protest until the government takes some big decisions to help us.”
Some protestors demanded a 20%-30% reservation in other jobs after completion of the four-year duty.
The scheme was approved by the Union Cabinet Committee on Security on Tuesday morning as the country aims to deploy fitter troops and cut down the salary and pension bills of the Army, Navy and Air Force.
This year, 46,000 soldiers will be recruited under the scheme, the ministry said. Those recruited will be given a distinct rank in the armed forces. Women will also be recruited under the scheme.
Besides the protestors, some veterans of the armed forces have also expressed their concern about the scheme.
Lieutenant General (retired) Vinod Bhatia said the scheme was a “death knell” for the armed forces. He said that the scheme was being implemented without testing it or doing a pilot project.
Bhatia said that the scheme will lead to militarisation of the society and that nearly 40,000 youth, who are semi-trained in handling arms, will be without a job every year.
On the aspect of the scheme that it would reduce the defence budget, Major General (retired) Yash Mor said that armed forces cannot be looked at from an economic point of view.
“Military life and career can’t be evaluated from money saved to the exchequer,” he added.
Major General (retired) Satbir Singh said that the scheme is not in line with the established military traditions, ethos, morals and values.
The Tour of Duty plan for the Army is not a realistic solution for India’s security concerns