After Army complains, Punjab CM tells officials to give full support to Agniveer rallies

After Army complains, Punjab CM tells officials to give full support to Agniveer rallies

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has asked district authorities to provide full support for the ‘Agnipath’ recruitment rallies after the Army flagged “vacillating” support from local administration.

This came after Major General Sharad Bikram Singh, the Army’s zonal recruitment officer in Jalandhar, wrote on the issue to Punjab chief secretary VK Janjua and Kumar Rahul, principal secretary, employment generation, skill development and training.

Chief Minister Mann directed all deputy commissioners to provide complete support to army authorities for holding the rallies to recruit soldiers. “Any laxity shall be viewed seriously. Every effort will be made to recruit maximum number of candidates in to army from the state,” he added.

Also read: Agniveers, via private agencies, may share airport security duties with CISF

‘Inadequate support’

In the letter dated September 8, Major General Singh has said they are not receiving adequate support from the local administration in organising the rallies. “They are usually citing their inadequacies due to lack of directions from state government at Chandigarh or lack of funds,” he had said.

The letter pointed out that there are certain “inescapable requirements” which the civil administration must provide for holding the recruitment rallies, including “police assistance for law and order, security, crowd control, essential barricading to enable controlled and smooth entry of candidates”.

The civil administration is also expected to arrange medical support, including a medical officer with a team and ambulances, to provide immediate assistance. Besides, arrangements have to be made for basic amenities like rain shelters, water, mobile toilets and food for 3,000 to 4,000 candidates per day for the 14 days that the rally is held at a particular venue, says the letter.

The letter also pointed out that the administrative and financial support provided by other states is “praise worthy”. The officer said he was also sending some pictures of the arrangements in other states.

The officer further wrote that unless they receive “clear cut commitment” from the government’s side, “we would be taking up case with Army headquarters to hold in abeyance all future recruitment rallies and procedures in the State of Punjab, or alternately conduct rallies in neighbouring states”.

‘No plan to shift rallies’

However, army sources later clarified that rallies in Ludhiana and Gurdaspur were conducted with full support of the civil administration. They said that there is “no plan to shift” recruitment rallies from Punjab to any other state. Another rally is scheduled to be held in Patiala from September 17 to 30.

According to information shared by the Army with the state government, around 27,000 candidates are expected to take part in the recruitment rallies in Patiala — from the six districts of Malerkotla, Fatehgarh Sahib, Mansa, Patiala, Sangrur and Barnala.

The Agnipath recruitment scheme, under which soldiers will be recruited for four years, was launched in June this year by the central government. After four years, about 25 per cent of the soldiers, known as ‘Agniveers’, will be retained in the forces. The others will retire with a one-time tax-free ‘Seva Nidhi’ package. The Defence Ministry has clarified that they will not be entitled to gratuity or pension benefits.

Also read: INS Chilka undergoes big changes to welcome women Agniveers

The launch of the scheme had sparked widespread protests across the country, with the protesters questioning what options they would have after their four-year tenure in the forces. Critics had argued that a four-year tenure would make soldiers risk-averse.

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