Congress steps up demand to scrap Agnipath scheme ahead of Lok Sabha session | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Congress steps up demand to scrap Agnipath scheme ahead of Lok Sabha session

ByNaresh Chander
Jun 17, 2024 07:09 PM IST

The Congress’s demand comes in the wake of some media reports that suggested that an internal survey of the military has proposed some changes in the Agnipath scheme

The Congress party has demanded the scrapping of the Agnipath scheme, questioning the rationale behind it, and called for the reinstatement of the old long-term recruitment process for soldiers.

Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda addresses a press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi on Monday. (ANI)
Congress leader Deepender Singh Hooda addresses a press conference at the party headquarters in Delhi on Monday. (ANI)

The demand comes ahead of the first session of the 18th Lok Sabha (LS) scheduled to commence on June 26 and in the wake of some media reports that suggested that an internal survey of the military has proposed some changes in the scheme, such as extending the tenure of the Agniveers, increasing the retention rate of recruited soldiers from 25% to around 60-70%, and increasing the age for the induction of personnel in technical services.

“You have done a great job; the internal survey of the army shows that the scheme is not for the betterment of the military and is dangerous for the security of the nation. This is the country of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’; we will not let it turn into a country of ‘Jai Dhanwan,’” Congress leader Deepender Hooda said during a press conference.

“Just like the idea of demonetisation came from outside, who has given this suggestion, when it was not in the BJP’s manifesto, and no one was even demanding this scheme?” he asked.

Hooda also questioned the government over the outcomes of the internal survey. He said, “The report of the army itself states that morale has decreased among the Agniveers, and a sense of competition has developed among them. This is not good for the strength of the military. The strongest armour of any military is its morale, and this scheme is the reason behind lowering this morale. This scheme was not developed with any long-term vision.”

Hooda also raised concerns about the insufficient training period for Agniveers, citing the internal survey report. He said, “The second important issue that came to our notice is the training period, which the report says is insufficient and should be increased from 24 weeks to 37-42 weeks. This shows how dangerous this scheme has become for the country. On the one side, we have fully trained and armoured militaries of China and Pakistan, and on the other side, we have Agniveers who have not been properly trained by your government.”

He highlighted that the government came to power with the slogan of “one rank, one pension,” but now has effectively reduced it to “only rank, no pension.” He said, “Every year, the government is saving 1,054 crores from their ‘one rank, no pension’ scheme, but when they came to power, they were advocating for ‘one rank, one pension.’”

“Haryana used to recruit 5,500 soldiers every year, but now only 900 are being recruited under Agniveer, and of those, only 200 will be recruited permanently,” he added, accusing the government of forcing the youth to leave the country and seek opportunities abroad. “The youth who used to risk their lives for the nation by joining the military are now forced to risk their lives by trying to flee abroad through dangerous means.”

“The opposition will fight with unity and scrap the scheme. The country has a strong opposition now… we will not let the government disrespect the military. This is the country of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan,’” he said.

The opposition INDIA bloc has plans to raise the issue of the Agnipath scheme and EVMs during the first session of the 18th Lok Sabha. The Congress party has also accused the central government of passing the bills without proper discussion in the past, including the Agnipath scheme.

Earlier, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi had called the scheme a risk to national security in a letter to President Draupadi Murmu, requesting her intervention in the matter. In a rally in Patiala, Punjab, on May 29, Gandhi said, “PM Modi wants two types of martyrs—one who gets compensation, pension, and martyr status, and the second (enrolled under the Agniveer scheme), who is poor and gets nothing. It is an insult to the Indian Army. PM Modi has turned our soldiers into labourers. We will scrap it (Agniveer scheme) and throw it into the dustbin. This is PM Modi’s scheme; the Army never wanted it.”

The scheme was implemented in September 2022, and since then, two batches have completed their training. The central government has repeatedly defended the decision, saying it was taken to lower the age profile of personnel in the army. The scheme proposes to recruit personnel in the age bracket of 17.5 to 21 years for four years, with 25% of each batch being promoted and retained for 15 years.

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