The Centre’s Agnipath scheme to recruit citizens for short-term services in the armed forces will give rise to more disaffection among the youth, said Bharatiya Janata Party MP Varun Gandhi on Thursday, as protests broke out in multiple states across India, PTI reported.

The Agnipath scheme, announced on Tuesday, will bring in men and women between the ages of 17-and-a-half and 21 for a four-year tenure in the armed forces with a provision of voluntary retention after this period, based on merit.

In a letter to Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Gandhi on Thursday said that the youth has many doubts about the scheme. He also urged Singh to make the government’s stand clear on the policy at the earliest.

Those recruited under the new system will get a monthly remuneration of Rs 30,000, which can be upgraded up to Rs 40,000 by the fourth year. However, the soldiers will not be entitled to pension and gratuity.

The proposal is aimed at deploying fitter troops and to cut down the ballooning salary and pension bills of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

On Tuesday, Gandhi had posted a tweet about the recruitment scheme and sought opinion of the public.

In his letter to Singh, Gandhi pointed out that 75% of the recruits under the scheme will retire after four years without pension, PTI reported.

“…and their total numbers will keep rising every year,” Gandhi said. “It will give a rise to more disaffection among the youth.”

He pointed that the corporate sector does not even hire regular military personnel who quit the armed forces after 15 years, and therefore, the soldiers who retire under the Agnipath scheme will have no future prospects.

“Four years of service will disrupt their education, and they will also face difficulties in getting another job or more education as they will be older to others with similar qualification,” he said.

The scheme will “waste the training cost” and be an “unnecessary burden on the defence budget” as only 25% of the Agniveers will be retained, he added, reported PTI.

“The government should keep the interest of unemployed youth paramount and bring out various policy aspects of this initiative,” Gandhi said.

Opposition reacts

Samajwadi Party President Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday said that “Agnipath must not set the path on fire”.

“The security of the country is not a short-term or informal issue, it requires a very serious and long-term policy,” he wrote on Twitter. “The negligent attitude that is being adopted regarding military recruitment will prove to be fatal for protecting the future of the country and the youth of the country.”

Bahujan Samaj Party Chief Mayawati said the youth of the country are “dissatisfied and angry”.

“This is an open game played with the future of the rural youth and their families,” she wrote on Twitter. “People in the country are already sad and suffering due to rising poverty, inflation, unemployment and wrong policies and arrogant working style of the government, in such a situation, the uneasiness spread among the youth regarding the new recruitment scheme in the army is now causing disappointment.”

Mayawati demanded that the government should reconsider its decision.

In a series of tweets, Congress MP Rahul Gandhi urged the BJP-led Centre to stop compromising the dignity of the country’s armed forces.

“Listen to the voice of the unemployed youth,” he said.

Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra questioned what would the aspirants gain from the four-year service.

“Armed forces aspirants dream about serving their country and securing the future of their parents and family,” she wrote in a tweet in Hindi. “...After four years they will neither have a guaranteed job, nor any pension = no rank, no pension.”

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) released a statement demanding that the scheme be scrapped.

Party leader Sitaram Yechury wrote in a tweet: “Agnipath scheme does disservice to India’s national security. Criminal to ask youth to make supreme sacrifice without any job security. Strengthen regular army recruitment.”

Aam Aadmi Party Chief Arvind Kejriwal told the government to not restrict the dreams of the country’s youth to four years.