BJP Chief Ministers Firefight ‘Agnipath’ Protests With Promises Of Preference


Protests against Agnipath scheme began in Bihar and UP but have spread to several states.

Chief ministers of several states where the BJP is in power have promised preference in jobs to those who serve the armed forces under the short-term Agnipath recruitment scheme. This came amid protests by army aspirants against four-year contractual

Chief Ministers of several states where the BJP is in power have promised preference in jobs to those who serve the armed forces under the short-term Agnipath recruitment scheme. This came amid protests by army aspirants against four-year contractual hiring of soldiers, announced by the BJP-led central government on June 14.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath urged the protesting young men not to fall for “anyone’s deceptions”. In his tweet in Hindi, he said the scheme “will give a new dimension to your life”, adding, “We will give preference to Agniveers in police and other services.” He had made this commitment earlier but reiterated it in light of the protests.

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced these recruits will be given priority in the state police recruitment.

The government plans to hire men and women in the age bracket of 17.5 to 21 under the scheme, which carries no pensionary benefits. Up to 25 per cent of them may get regular commission for 15 years thereafter. Protesters are dissatisfied with the salary of around Rs 30,000 a month and the payout of around Rs 12 lakh when relieved after four years.

In Haryana, which too saw angry demonstrations in Palwal and Rewari among other places, Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar tweeted a video message and declared similar preference for those not absorbed for regular service after the four-year contract. 

Two northern hill states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand also saw such commitments from the chief ministers. Uttarakhand’s Pushkar Singh Dhami said the state’s association with the armed forces is “well known”. 

Mr Dhami added, “Those who return after their four-year stint with the army will be given jobs in the police and the disaster management departments to make use of their discipline, skills, and military training.”

Among the northeastern states, Chief Ministers of Assam and Manipur promised preference to Agniveers in state government jobs, particularly in the police. Their counterparts in Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura also praised the scheme.

The central government, too, has been announcing measures to address the anxieties of the aspirants. The Home Ministry tweeted that it has decided to give priority to Agniveers who complete four years for recruitment in CAPF (Central Armed Police Forces) and Assam Rifles. 

However, in Bihar — which saw the first demonstrations against the scheme and continues to see blockading of roads by protesters — BJP’s ally Janata Dal (United) has sought a “rethink” on the scheme.

Among opposition-ruled states, Congress chief ministers in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh have criticised the scheme. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has demanded that it be scrapped.

Many experts have been asking why the recruits would join the armed forces in the first place if they could directly build a career in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) or state police. Some aspirants that NDTV spoke to in Patna on Wednesday said they would now prepare for police recruitment as that has pension and other long-term prospects.

Under the old system, youths aged between 16.5 and 21 years were selected directly for a minimum of 15 years of service and got pension after retirement. One of the rationales being seen behind the Agnipath scheme is that it will reduce the salary and pension bill of the armed forces.

The government has tried to address the worry that Agniveers released after four years will be lagging in terms of education. It has announced a new three-year bachelor’s degree programme with lighter curriculum, in which half the credits required for the degree will come from skills received under the Agnipath scheme. However, only the curriculum is reduced, not the number of years for the degree.

Meanwhile, Vice Chief of Army Staff Lt General BS Raju has said this scheme will make the army younger and more tech-savvy. “I think, with this scheme, we will be ready to fight the future wars.”





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