Congress promises to scrap Agnipath scheme after polls, demands jobs to 2 lakh youth on standby

Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to president Droupadi Murmu seeking her intervention as the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  26 Feb 2024 2:33 PM GMT
Congress promises to scrap Agnipath scheme after polls, demands jobs to 2 lakh youth on standby

New Delhi: The Congress on Monday demanded immediate employment for the two lakh youth from across the country who were selected for defence service but were later denied joining after the introduction of the Agnipath scheme.

The Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to president Droupadi Murmu seeking her intervention as the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. He said, these young men and women had been selected for service with the Indian Armed Forces but were cruelly denied the opportunity to serve their country after the Agnipath scheme.

Congress promises to scrap scheme

The party also held a press conference addressed by senior leaders including Sachin Pilot, Deepender Hooda and Pawan Khera demanding the scrapping of the Agnipath scheme and immediate induction of the selected youth in the defence services. It announced that once Congress forms the government it will scrap the scheme as it is detrimental to the country’s defence interest and also the youth aspiring to join the defence forces.

“These young men and women had struggled against all odds to pass gruelling mental and physical tests and a written exam. Until May 31 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 wrote in his letter to president Murmu.

Opposing the scheme Kharge quoted former Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane, who 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.’

‘Agnipath scheme, discriminatory’

The Congress president said, “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.”

He pointed out that 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.

‘Exam fees never refunded’

Kharge underlined the injustice inflicted on the lakhs of youth whose dreams did not materialise despite the solemn promise made by the Government of India.

“Not only did they spend years in pursuit of this dream, but the Rs 250 each of 50 lakh applicants had to pay to collect an application form was never refunded, which amounts to a hefty Rs 125 crore taken from these youngsters,” he pointed out while adding, the resulting frustration and hopelessness has even led to several reported deaths by suicide.

Pilot says scheme compromised country’s security

Addressing the press conference, Sachin Pilot said, the Agnipath scheme has not only compromised the recruitment process but also the security of the country as well.

He questioned the government’s logic behind introducing the scheme, which he said was done purely for cost-cutting. He said, that Congress was opposed to it right from the beginning and will keep on opposing it. The senior leader asked what the Agniveers would do after retiring at a young age and without any resources.

Referring to the government announcement that 10 per cent of jobs in the central police services will be reserved for Agniveers, he said, when it (the government) had not completed the recruitment for reservation under the ex-servicemen category how can it be expected to fill 10 per cent reservation for the Agniveers.

Congress alleges drop in Army recruitments

Speaking on the occasion Deepender Hooda said, that while the Prime Minister had promised one rank one pension, for the Agniveers there is “no rank no pension”, pointing out that there was no pension provision or other amenities like the canteen and health facilities for the Agniveers. He said they would even be discriminated against in case of martyrdom.

He disclosed that after the introduction of the Agnipath scheme recruitment in the defence services had substantially fallen. He said if the current trend continues the country’s defence forces’ strength may come down from 14 lakhs currently to just 8 lakhs in another 10 years. He said, that while on average 60 to 65,000 soldiers were recruited every year, now the number has come down to 40 to 45,000 in the previous year.

Quoting the example of Haryana, Hooda revealed that on average about 5,500 youth would get recruited every year in the Army. “After the introduction of the Agnipath scheme the number has come down to just 210 in the previous year,” he said.

Pawan Khera pointed out how both the ‘jawans’ and ‘kisans’ in this country were being made to suffer under the current dispensation. He said, that while the kisans were struggling on roads, the jawans (soldiers who were denied joining) were protesting at the Jantar Mantar.

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