Pan-India Agnipath Protests: Congress Asks Govt To Keep Scheme On Hold

New Delhi: Violent protests against the Central government’s new ‘Agnipath’ recruitment scheme for the Armed forces spread from Bihar to Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Delhi on Thursday.

Opposition parties also voiced their concern against the scheme – which proposes short-term recruitment of Army personnel — announced on Tuesday by Union Defence minister Rajnath Singh and the three service chiefs.

The Congress urged the government to keep the ‘hastily’ drawn up scheme in ‘abeyance’ and hold wide consultations with serving and retired officers.

“It is controversial, carries multiple risks, subverts the long-standing traditions and ethos of the armed forces and there is no guarantee that the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country,” former Union minister P Chidambaram said.

“We have read and heard the views expressed by retired defence officers. Almost unanimously, they have opposed the scheme and we believe that many serving officers share the same reservations about the scheme,” he stated during a press conference at the AICC headquarters.

Outlining the concerns regarding the scheme, Chidambaram said: “Our first concern is that the Agnipath soldier will be trained for six months and will serve for another 42 months when 75 per cent of the recruits will be discharged. It appears to us that the scheme makes a mockery of training; inducts into the defence forces an ill-trained and ill-motivated soldier; and discharges a disappointed and unhappy ex-soldier into society. The age of recruitment — 17 to 21 years — raises numerous questions. A large part of our youth will be totally excluded from serving in the defence forces.”

Reducing the defence pension bill is one of the aims of the new scheme.

Chidambaram said that is a weak argument and has not been established beyond doubt.

“On the other hand, the short period of training (6 months) and the unusually short period of service (42 months) may have negative consequences on quality, efficiency and effectiveness. We fear that the scheme may turn out to be a case of ‘penny wise and security foolish’,” he said.

“Given the situation on our borders, it is imperative that we have soldiers in our defence forces who are young, well-trained, motivated, happy, satisfied and assured of their future. The Agnipath scheme does not advance any of these objectives. It is our duty to warn the country of the consequences of a hastily drawn up scheme. We would urge the government to keep the Agnipath scheme in abeyance, hold wide consultations with serving and retired officers, and address the issues of quality, efficiency and economy without compromising on any of the three considerations,” he said.

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