Centre firefights Agnipath protests

Trains torched, internet suspended as stir rocks more states; govt says scheme to add new capabilities to forces
Centre firefights Agnipath protests
Opposition’s attack came in the wake of protests in several states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana

NEW DELHI: The Opposition on Thursday stepped up its attack on the Centre over the Agnipath scheme and demanded its withdrawal, even as the government issued a clarification asserting that the new model will not only bring in new capabilities to the armed forces but also open up avenues for the youth in the private sector.

While Congress leader Rahul Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to listen to the voice of unemployed youths and not take ‘agnipareeksha’ (trial by fire) of their patience by making them walk on ‘Agnipath’, Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav called the move “negligent” and potentially “fatal” for the country’s future.

The Opposition’s attack came in the wake of protests in several states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Trains were set afire, windowpanes of buses smashed and passersby, including a ruling BJP MLA, pelted with stones in Bihar by defence job aspirants whose protest against the central scheme continued for the second consecutive day.

Apart from issuing a ‘Myth vs Facts’ document to address the concerns raised on the scheme, the government’s information dissemination arm issued a series of social media posts, saying in the coming years, recruitment of ‘Agniveers’ will be around triple the current recruitment in forces and ruled out any change to regimental system.

“The scheme will bring in new dynamism to the armed forces. It will help the forces bring in new capabilities and take advantage of the technical skills and fresh thinking of the youths... It will allow the youths to serve the nation,” the Press Information Bureau said in a Facebook post.

Referring to the financial package of around Rs 11.71 lakh to be given to each of the recruits at the end of the four-year tenure from the ‘Seva Nidhi Package’, it said it will provide financial independence to the youths and even help them to venture into entrepreneurship.

Union minister and BJP leader Ashwini Kumar Choubey urged students protesting against the scheme to stop their agitation and keep away from those inciting them.

Significantly, BJP ally JD(U) sought a rethink on the scheme.

The Congress urged the government to keep the scheme in abeyance, hold wide consultations with serving and retired officers, and address the issues. “No rank, no pension, no direct recruitment for 2 years, no stable future after four years, no respect shown by the government for the army,” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet.

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