Yesterday, I woke up to the news that made me ask a question to myself. Is the government bowing down to the protestors again? In the wake of ongoing protests against the Agnipath scheme, the government late on Thursday night announced the amendment in the upper age limit for army aspirants. It reminded me of how the Modi government had repealed the three revolutionary farm laws to surrender in front of the farmers. To be honest, it wasn’t something you would expect from PM Modi and his government.
As a consequence, people have now begun assuming that the violent protests and raising slogans against any scheme introduced by the government will force the latter to withdraw their decision. They have now come out to protest against the Agnipath scheme expecting the government to withdraw the reforms. However, it is far from possible. Simply put, Agnipath won’t go the Farm Laws way. Why? Let’s find out.
Agnipath scheme and the protest around it
The government, on Tuesday, launched its new Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers across the three services. The newly introduced defence recruitment reforms will come into effect very soon. The soldiers recruited under the scheme will be referred to as ‘Agniveers.’
Under the new scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the service in just four years. However, the insecurity of the aspirants is wrong as at the end of the four-year period, each soldier will get ₹ 11.71 lakh as a lump sum amount, which will be tax-free. They will also get a ₹ 48 lakh life insurance cover for the four years. Under the Agnipath scheme, aspirants between the ages of 17.5 years and 21 years will be eligible to apply.
As reported by TFI, only a day after the scheme was unveiled by the government, the roads of India witnessed law going for a toss as many came out to express their resentment. However, the protests against the Agnipath scheme soon turned into violence as railway stations were blocked, vehicles were set on fire and whatnot. Reportedly, army aspirants disrupted rail and road traffic in several parts of the state, including in the Buxar district, blocking the onward journey of Patna-bound Janshatabdi Express for nearly 30 minutes.
In Muzaffarpur town, a large number of Army aspirants placed burning tyres on the roads around the Chakkar Maidan. The protests which started in Bihar have now spread to Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
The intensity of the violence and the increasing number of protestors all across the nation clearly suggest that the opposition is far from over. Notably, a youth from Telangana died and several others were injured during the protests.
The protests against the Agnipath scheme are most violent in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Haryana. The protestors set ablaze a train, buses and a police outpost. Moreover, several coaches of at least 14 trains were set on fire.
Protests against the Agnipath scheme were also reported from other states including Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
Demand for rollback and government’s action on the protests
Remember farm laws? Despite the revolutionary laws offering the best possible solutions to the farmers, they kept protesting against the government for two years. All thanks to the liberals and opposition for feeding them with the fake news that led them to misinterpret the laws completely. Similarly, the aspirants who are protesting against the scheme have no idea what it has to offer to them but want the government to take back the Agnipath scheme. The aspirants said that “They are unhappy with the changes introduced under the new recruitment scheme for the Indian Army, particularly the length of service, no pension provisions for those released early, and the 17.5 to 21 age restriction that now makes many of them ineligible.”
Along with the protestors, the opposition is also asking the government to immediately rollback the decision. Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Friday demanded an immediate rollback of the Centre’s Agnipath scheme, alleging that it is an insult to the Army and a loss for the state’s youth.
“After stopping recruitment to the Army for two years, the Centre’s new diktat is that stay in the Army for four years and then don’t get pension,” said Mann.
“This is an insult to the Army. It is a cheating with the youth of the country,” he further added.
TRS Working President and Minister for IT and Industries KT Rama Rao also asked the Centre to review the ‘Agnipath’ scheme. He stated that “the NDA government has taken a unilateral decision on it.”
Congress leaders Rahul and Priyanka Gandhi also targeted the Centre. While Rahul Gandhi tweeted that “Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not understand what the country wants and he can’t hear anything except the voice of his ‘friends’, Priyanka too asked PM Modi to withdraw the scheme immediately.
अग्निपथ – नौजवानों ने नकारा
कृषि कानून – किसानों ने नकारा
नोटबंदी – अर्थशास्त्रियों ने नकारा
GST – व्यापारियों ने नकारा
देश की जनता क्या चाहती है, ये बात प्रधानमंत्री नहीं समझते क्यूंकि उन्हें अपने ‘मित्रों’ की आवाज़ के अलावा कुछ सुनाई नहीं देता।
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 17, 2022
In view of the concerns raised by army aspirants and the violent protests across the nation, PM Modi increased the upper age limit to 23 from 21 as a one-time waiver. “Consequent to the commencement of the Agnipath scheme, the entry age for all new recruits in the armed forces was fixed as 17.5 to 21 years of age,” the defence ministry said.
Moreover, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said on Saturday announced a 10% reservation of all vacancies in the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and Assam Rifles for the armed forces recruits after the completion of four years of service under the Agnipath scheme.
No withdrawal of Agnipath scheme
The likes of Ravish Kumar and opposition leaders would have probably started celebrating as they might be assuming that the government will bow down to army aspirants as they did to the farmers. But the government soon shattered their dream by announcing on Friday that they are all set to start the recruitment process.
The Indian Army said that “a notification will be issued in the next two days while the Indian Air Force said the recruitment process will start June 24.”
On Friday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said the “relaxation of age indicates that the government cares for our youth”. He also added that the Department of Military Affairs, Ministry of Defence and the services “are committed to commence the recruitment process at the earliest” and “we invite the youth of our country to join the Indian Armed Forces and serve the nation through Agnipath.”
This clearly shows that the government, this time, is not going to take back the decision.
Earlier as reported extensively by TFI in 2021, in a step uncharacteristic of the Modi government, the three farm bills were taken back. Prime Minister Modi had announced that the three farm bills will be repealed and urged the protestors to go back to their lands.
But it is highly unlikely that the government will repeat its previous mistakes by rolling back the Agnipath scheme and the commencement of recruitment which is soon to occur is the proof.
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