Agnipath: Samyukt Kisan Morcha to launch campaign against recruitment policy

The Agnipath scheme announced on June 14, seeks to recruit youths in the age bracket of 17-and-half and 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years.

Agnipath: Samyukt Kisan Morcha to launch campaign against recruitment policy

New Delhi: The Samyukt Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organisation of farm unions, on Saturday said it will launch a nationwide campaign against the Centre's Agnipath scheme for military recruitment on August 7. It said the scheme is a "serious setback" to farming families whose youths have been part of the armed forces. The campaign will be launched in collaboration with the United Front of ex-Servicemen and various youth organisations. The Agnipath scheme announced on June 14, seeks to recruit youths in the age bracket of 17-and-half and 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years. For 2022, the upper age limit has been extended to 23 years.

Several parts of India witnessed violent protests against the scheme in June with the agitators demanding its rollback as the new model does not provide a job guarantee to 75 per cent of the recruits.

The Agnipath scheme has "put to an end the tried and tested method of regular, permanent recruitment to the armed forces. It would mean a drastic reduction in the size of the armed forces from the present sanctioned strength of 14 lakh to merely seven lakh," the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) said in a statement on Saturday.

"This is a serious setback to farming families who have contributed to the nation by sending their youths to the armed forces.

"The proposed 'all India, all class recruitment' would severely reduce the share of regions like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Uttarakhand, western UP and eastern Rajasthan that have contributed to the armed forces for generations, besides affecting the morale of the regiments," it said.

The recruitment on an "all India, all class" basis is set to change the composition of some regiments that recruit youths from specific regions as well as castes.

"The campaign demands that the pending vacancies (about 1.25 lakh) and the current year vacancies (about 60,000) should be filled immediately following the pre-existing method of regular and permanent recruitment. The recruitment process already initiated must be completed with age-relaxation of two years in lieu of non-recruitment during the last two years," the SKM said.

"All cases against anti-Agnipath protesters must be withdrawn and the arrested youth must be released forthwith. There should be no privatisation in the defence sector, the government must accept its responsibility for national security and protection of the honour and morale of armed forces," the statement said.

Swaraj India president Yogendra Yadav said the first step in the campaign would be a 'Jai Jawan Jai Kisan' conference from August 7 to August 14.

"This campaign aims to educate the public about the disastrous consequences of the controversial Agnipath scheme and compel the Centre, by using democratic, peaceful and constitutional means, to roll it back.

"If the (three) farm laws were dire, the Agnipath scheme is disastrous. With our farmers and soldiers in distress, the backbone of our nation is in danger of being broken. Our silence cannot be the reason for the government to bulldoze and destroy the protectors and feeders of the nation. We have stopped them once, we can stop them again," Yadav said at a press conference here.

He said some of the major events under the campaign will take place on Sunday in Haryana's Jind district, Mathura in Uttar Pradesh and Kolkata.

On August 9, the events will be held in Haryana's Rewari and Uttar Pradesh's Muzaffarnagar.

There will be events in Indore and Meerut on August 10 and in Patna on August 11.

Yadav said the Agnipath scheme should be withdrawn and the earlier system of regular and permanent recruitment restored.

Under the Agnipath scheme, the three services are planning to recruit 46,000 soldiers this year. The youths who will be recruited under the new scheme will be called 'Agniveers'. A major objective of the scheme is to bring down the average age of military personnel.

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