Agnipath scheme: Big setback for Centre, Opposition MPs seek rethink, withdrawal

Opposition members, including those from the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the RJD raised objections to the new recruitment scheme and said it should be rolled back.

Agnipath scheme: Big setback for Centre, Opposition MPs seek rethink, withdrawal

New Delhi: In a big setback for the Centre, the Opposition MPs on Monday demanded a rethink on the new military recruitment scheme Agnipath and its withdrawal. This came after Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the three service chiefs briefed a parliamentary panel on 'Agnipath', but six opposition members opposed it and demanded its scrutiny.

At the nearly two-hour meeting where the members of the Parliamentary Consultative Committee on Defence were given a presentation, Singh sought to allay their concerns, including those related to the possible impact on the operational readiness of the forces.

The three chiefs of the armed forces also briefed the members of parliament about the scheme, which had sparked violent protests for days and was criticised by many opposition parties.

Opposition members, including those from the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the RJD raised objections to the new recruitment scheme and said it should be rolled back. Sources said they gave a hand-written note to the Defence Minister urging the government to rethink the scheme.

 

 

The MPs who signed it included Shaktisinh Gohil, Rajani Patil (both Congress), Supriya Sule (NCP), Saugata Roy and Sudip Bandyopadhyay (both TMC) and A D Singh (RJD). However, Congress leader Manish Tewari, who has been publicly lauding the scheme and taking a stand contrary to his party's on the issue, was not among the signatories. Congress has said that Tewari's views on the Agnipath scheme are his personal and do not reflect the party's opinion.

 

 

The Committee has 20 MPs as members - 13 from Lok Sabha and seven from Rajya Sabha. At least 12 MPs were present during the Monday meeting. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury were among those who did not attend it.

The government has projected the Agnipath scheme as a mega reform initiative that will help bring down the age profile of the armed forces. After the meeting, Singh said that it was a good interaction.

The sources said Tewari also asked at the meeting whether the scheme in any manner impacts the pension bill. He also asked if it reduces the operational readiness at the cutting-edge level, the sources said, adding that the Army chief responded to this by saying the operational readiness will not be compromised at any level.

The sources said Congress MP Shaktisinh Gohil cited the criticism of the scheme by experts and decorated soldiers and said it should be withdrawn as it would affect the morale of the forces and create confusion.

He said the scheme should first be launched as a pilot project and those trained should be recruited into the armed forces. It should only be introduced after working out various modalities and wider consultations with all stakeholders, Gohil added.

The Congress leader was supported by NCP MP Supriya Sule and TMC MP Saugata Roy. The presentation was aimed at addressing the concerns of the opposition leaders ahead of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, starting July 18.

After briefing the MPs in the committee, the Defence Minister, the three service chiefs and the defence secretary answered several queries raised by them. Following the unveiling of the scheme on June 14, violent protests against it were reported in several states for nearly a week and various opposition parties demanded its rollback.

The Indian Air Force recently said it has received around 7.5 lakh applications under the scheme. The registration process began on June 24.

 

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