Punjab assembly passes resolution against Centre’s Agnipath scheme
Chief minister Bhagwant Mann to raise defence recruitment scheme with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union home minister Amit Shah
The Punjab Vidhan Sabha on Thursday passed a resolution against the Centre’s Agnipath defence recruitment scheme. Two BJP legislators Ashwani Sharma and Jangi Lal Mahajan, however, opposed the resolution. The resolution was moved in the House by chief minister Bhagwant Mann.
Protests had erupted in various parts of the country, including Punjab and Haryana, after the Centre unveiled the Agnipath scheme to recruit youngsters aged between 17-and-a-half and 21 years in the army, navy and air force, largely on a four-year contractual basis. It later relaxed the upper age limit for this year’s recruitment to 23.
Participating in the discussion on the resolution, Mann said he will soon raise the issue of the Agnipath scheme with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union home minister Amit Shah. He said the scheme had been declared unilaterally and led to nationwide protests and opposition. “This scheme is against the country’s youth. It’s likely to create dissatisfaction among those who wish to serve the armed forces of the nation for a long time,” he said.
The House asked the Centre to withdraw the scheme and give long-term employment to youngsters in the armed forces as they prepare for years for a career in uniform.
Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Manpreet Singh Ayali also supported the resolution and demanded the scheme’s rollback. “In my opinion, the scheme should be withdrawn by the Centre, and a unanimous resolution be passed in the House,” he added.
Leader of Opposition and Congress legislator Partap Singh Bajwa also demanded that the resolution be passed unanimously. “Why is it that any new scheme introduced by the BJP-led NDA government is opposed?” He said India faces unique geographical challenges as it is surrounded by nuclear-powered Pakistan and China. “We can’t copy Israel and the US as they don’t have such hostile borders like ours. It is sad that our country has planned to hire soldiers on contractual basis. Contractual employees can’t fight hostile enemies,” Bajwa said, adding the Centre was actually running away from pension and salary bills.
The scheme should be withdrawn as you can’t make a soldier in four years’ service out of which 18 months go into training and vacation, he reiterated, asking that resolution be sent through the governor to the Government of India.
Referring to the (now repealed) three farm laws that were opposed by all parties of Punjab, Bajwa urged the CM to take a joint party delegation from Punjab to Modi for the scheme’s withdrawal.
BJP MLA Ashwani Sharma no one in the House was a subject matter expert. “We should have faith in the heads of the three chiefs of the army, navy and air force who have stood by the scheme,” he said, opposing the resolution.
“Soldiers are the backbone of the armed forces The Agnipath scheme will break the backbone of the forces,” said state cabinet minister Harjot Singh Bains while opposing the scheme.
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