The Congress on Wednesday said that MP Manish Tewari’s views favouring the Agnipath scheme are his own and not of the party.
The statement came after Tewari, in a The Indian Express article published on Wednesday, said that the Agnipath scheme is a part of defence reforms and modernisation.
“This recruitment reform would help in right-sizing the armed forces provided it gets dovetailed into the imperatives of fifth-generation warfare,” Tewari wrote in the newspaper.
Under the Agnipath scheme, citizens aged between 17-and-a-half and 21 years will be eligible to apply. Of these recruits, 25% will be eligible to apply as regular personnel after they complete their four-year service.
Since June 15, violent protests have taken place in several states against the new military recruitment plan. At many places, agitators burnt and vandalised railway property, blocked train tracks and clashed with officials. In Bihar alone, 60 train coaches have been burnt and property worth about Rs 700 crore has been damaged.
The protestors are demanding permanent recruitment under the regular process as well as pension and other retirement benefits that are not a part of the Agnipath scheme.
To contain the outrage, the Union government has increased the age limit for recruitment in the armed forces under the scheme to 23 years for this year. It has also announced a 10% reservation for Agnipath recruits in the jobs offered by the home and defence ministries.
The scheme has been vehemently opposed by the Congress. On Monday, the party had protested against the scheme in all Assembly constituencies.
On Wednesday, Congress General Secretary Jairam Ramesh said that the Agnipath Scheme is against the national security of the country, and the youth and has been “bulldozed through without discussion”.
Tewari said that the view in the article was personal, as was mentioned by the newspaper. “I wish Jairam Ramesh ji would have read it right till the very end,” he said.
Tewari has expressed his support for the Agnipath scheme on multiple occasions.
On June 16, Tewari had said that the Agnipath scheme was a “much-needed reform in the right direction” and had asserted that the armed forces should not be an employment guarantee programme, according to PTI.
“I do empathise with youth who have concerns over Agnipath’s recruitment process,” he had said. “...Armed forces of Union shouldn’t be an employment guarantee programme.”