Tuesday 28 June 2022
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Prime minister tries to address misgivings about Agnipath

Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not mention the protests that continue — albeit subsided — against Agnipath but said people would eventually see the benefits

While different ministries of his government and the chiefs of three services of the armed forces had already done their bit, counselling the people about the virtues of the Agnipath military recruitment scheme, Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined the discourse today, saying many decisions and reforms may seem unpleasant, but the entire country would experience the benefits of it. “Many decisions, many reforms, in the present may seem unpleasant, but over time, the entire country experiences benefits of it. The path of reforms will take us to new milestones,” the prime minister said during a public address in Bengaluru.

The prime minister did not mention the protests that continue across the country — albeit subsided — against Agnipath. The union government has made it clear that the scheme will not be rolled back. “Why should it be rolled back? It is the only progressive step to making the armed forces young. It is a question of protecting the country,” Lt Gen Anil Puri, additional secretary, department of military affairs, said yesterday at a press conference addressed also by representatives of the navy and the air force.

Yesterday, the tri-services came up with a broad schedule of enrolment and the today issued a notification for induction of soldiers under the scheme. The process will begin in July.

The union government has announced several measures to address the concerns of the ‘Agniveers’ after their four-year service in the armed forces. Several ministries and the BJP-ruled states have announced reservations in various government jobs.

On the issue of setting national, public and private properties on fire during the protests, it was said at the press conference yesterday that rioters would not be recruited. “There is no space for indiscipline in the armed forces. There is no space for arson and violence. All those who want to become part of the armed forces under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme will have to give a certificate that they were not part of any arson,” Lt Gen Puri said.

Several opposition parties, led by the Indian National Congress (INC), have dubbed “Agnipath” the latest blunder of the government, part of a series that includes demonetisation and the farm laws. Critics predicted a rollback. The government, however, is standing firm. The military has declared that this was a long-awaited change in tune with the global trend that is increasingly focussed on the use of cutting-edge technology in warfare and a younger age profile for soldiers that’s more in tune with it.

The terms of the Agnipath scheme — recruitment between the ages of 17.5 and 23 years and mandatory retirement for 75% of Agniveers after four years without any gratuity or pension but opportunities galore in police forces, Assam Rifles, different ministries, businesses, corporate sector jobs etc seems to have taken the wind off the sail of ‘revolution’ that many youths were instigated for, as news of a reduction in the rate of violent incidents started pouring in last evening.

Nevertheless, several organisations called for an all-India strike during which more than 500 trains were cancelled by the Indian Railways, which has suffered major losses of due to arson and vandalism by the protesters.

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