Monday Musings: Why Maharashtra has been silent on Agnipath scheme?
PUNE During his address at the 56th foundation day celebration of Shiv Sena, its head Uddhav Thackeray launched a scathing attack on the central government over the ‘Agnipath’ scheme calling it a mirage. In the scheme, people between the ages of 17.5 and 21 years will be recruited into the military service of their choice for four years.
Thackeray, who is also Chief Minister of Maharashtra, said the state has largely been silent when some other parts of India are witnessing violent protests. “But do not provoke Maharashtra to erupt,” Thackeray said.
Be it farmers’ protest or current outrage over the new scheme introduced by the Centre, Maharashtra stayed calm. It’s not that Maharashtra doesn’t send its men to the Armed Forces. The young men from Maharashtra love their country as much as other states and are often eager to serve the nation in whichever way possible.
Many villages in Western Maharashtra, Marathwada, Konkan and parts of Vidarbha are known to have produced soldiers, some of them made supreme sacrifice while serving the nation.
For the past two years, many of these young men have been preparing hard even as Covid-19 has prevented holding recruitment drives for non-officer ranks since 2020.
There are coaching centres in Maharashtra helping these youngsters to prepare for defence recruitment. But they are not on a scale as in states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh Telangana or Uttar Pradesh. The violence in these states has put the lens on the role of private training centres as police there suspect that coaching institutes that prepare youth for recruitment into the armed forces are behind the violent protests against the scheme.
It is also not because most aspirants preparing for Army recruitment – Army recruits most youngsters compared to Air Force or Navy – have endorsed the scheme. There is opposition to Agnipath in Maharashtra too.
But it has not spilt onto the streets yet and is unlikely to happen on a scale that Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or other parts of the Hindi heartland has seen.
One of the key reasons states like Maharashtra have largely remained silent is that the employment generation here through private players is better than in the Hindi heartland. That is not to say Maharashtra’s employment model is all too perfect. Its heavily lopsided and most jobs are concentrated within the Pune-Mumbai-Nashik belt. However, those aspiring to join the Armed forces can have multiple opportunities available within the state when they leave the service at the age of 25 or 27.
Those not been able to acquire skills and feel left out have often turned to agriculture post their fixed - 15 years tenure in the service. Take for example Apshinge, a village of around 3,000 from Satara, where almost every household has seen its members serve in the Armed Forces. The village is backing the Agnipath scheme. There are other such villages like Sainik Takli in Kolhapur, which also has a long history with Armed Forces, and the perception there is largely in favour of the scheme.
In the report that Hindustan Times published on Sunday, many of those men from Apshinge in Western Maharashtra who retired from the service said they returned to their village and are “happily” engaged in farming activity.
Whether it’s Western Maharashtra or Marathwada, these regions are also known for the sugarcane produce. They were largely silent against the farm laws last year when other parts were witnessing outrage. One reason, the region did not see protests was because sugarcane is a cash crop, for which the three laws were not directly applicable, given that farmers have to sell their produce to the nearby sugar factories.
At the same time, the highly institutionalised cooperatives engaged in the sugar sector, along with firms owned by farmers who purchase the agriculture produce, had largely kept the farmers assured about rates.
This has largely kept rural unrest in check even during the year when rain is not adequate. This time when the agitation is about the new reform, many in Maharashtra feel it’s a scheme that will destroy some of the jobs and should be amended. But they also know that cash in hand (of a few lakhs of rupees) while leaving the service is not that bad to start afresh with a self-employment opportunity.
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut – under fire from his party's dissident faction for calling them 'living corpses' – on Tuesday, tweeted out a one-liner that contained the phrase 'chalti firti lashain' (moving dead bodies), in what seemed a dig at the rebel group. 'Jahalat', an Urdu word, roughly translates to being unknowledgeable/stupid. The full translation, therefore, reads: “Stupidity is like death, and fools are walking corpses.”
The Centre's Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces has evoked mixed responses ever since it was announced by the government. There is now disappointment among group of trainers and coaching institutes in Bihar engaged in mentoring students for their career paths. Rahul Kumar, who is from Ujiarpur (Samastipur), is a trainer for Army job aspirants. An Army job aspirant Ajit Kumar said the passion for the job was the main driving force.
The monsoon's arrival in Delhi has been delayed, with rains not predicted to begin for another few days after it was initially predicted that it will keep arrive by its usual onset date of June 27. Showers are expected from Wednesday, and conditions are favourable for monsoon clouds to sweep in over northwest India, the India Meteorological Department said on Monday. The southwest monsoon usually arrives at the capital on June 27.
Chief minister Jai Ram Thakur on Monday laid foundation stones of projects worth ₹112 crore in Bilaspur district on Monday. Addressing a meeting at Ghawandal Chowk, the CM announced that a government degree college will be opened at Swarghat in Naina Devi assembly segment. The CM said the government will take over Shakti Senior Secondary School, Naina Devi and open a Primary Education Block office in Naina Devi.
With the monsoon likely to hit Himachal Pradesh on Tuesday, the Indian Meteorological Department has issued a four-day yellow alert for heavy rainfall coupled with thunderstorms in 10 districts of the state, barring Kinnaur and Lahaul-Spiti. Shimla meteorological centre director Surender Paul said, “Thunderstorms accompanied by lightning and gusty winds blowing at a speed of 30- 40km/hr are expected in the hill state between June 28 and July 1.”