Pause or scrap Agnipath, say opposition parties

Opposition parties on Thursday stepped up their attack on the government over Agnipath amid protests against the scheme in several parts of the country. They demanded that it be scrapped or kept in abeyance. Terming the scheme as ‘contractualisation of armed forces,’ the Congress urged the Centre to postpone the recruitment of 46,000 soldiers and hold wider consultations, while the Centre of Indian Trade Unions asked the government to scrap Agnipath, as it would ‘compromise and negatively affect’ quality of employment and efficiency of the armed forces.

Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram said the scheme ‘subverted the long-standing traditions and ethos of the armed forces’. “There is no guarantee that the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country,” he said. Congress spokesperson Ajay Maken said that its first concern was that an Agnipath soldier will be trained for six months and serve for another 42 months and 75% of recruits would be discharged. This was akin to contractualisation of armed forces.

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“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…, Chidambaram said. It was the Opposition’s duty to warn the country of the consequence of a hastily drawn up scheme, he said. “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.”Calling the reduction of pension bill a ‘weak argument’, the former finance minister said, “the objective has not been established beyond doubt.

CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said, “the Agnipath scheme does disservice to national interests. This scheme, to save pension money, severely compromises quality and efficiency of our professional armed forces.” CPI general secretary D Raja said, “finding jobs has become literally a path of fire under Modi.”

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal appealed to the Centre to give the youth the chance to ‘serve the country throughout their life’.

SP chief Akhilesh Yadav said, “the negligent attitude regarding military recruitment will prove fatal when it comes to the protection of the future of the country and the youth.”

BSP supremo Mayawati termed the scheme “unfair towards rural youth”.

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Harry Byrne

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