Kharge on Agnipath: ‘For 1st time, service chiefs fronted to defend govt policy decision’

"Why are the Prime Minister, Home Minister and Defence Minister quiet on the Agnipath scheme?" asked the Congress leader.

Mallikarjun Kharge
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge. File Photo: PTI

After the three chiefs of the Indian defence services defended the Centre’s Agnipath scheme, senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on Monday (June 20) slammed the Narendra Modi government.

Protests are continuing in several states over the Agnipath recruitment scheme to serve in the Indian armed forces. Despite the protests, the Centre and the three service chiefs have said there won’t be a withdrawal of the scheme.

Also read: Agnipath decoded: How to join, salary, benefits — and criticism

Criticising the Modi government over the scheme, Congress MP Kharge said for the first time in 75 years, service chiefs were being asked to defend a government’s policy decision. He also questioned the silence of PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.

“For the first time in 75 years, service chiefs are being fronted to defend a policy decision by the government. Why are the Prime Minister, Home Minister and Defence Minister quiet on the Agnipath scheme? (sic),” Kharge tweeted on Monday.

Former Union minister Yashwant Sinha too said the army should not have been drawn into a political row. “The agniveer decision shd have been defended by ministers of the govt. The Army should not have been drawn into a political controversy (sic),” the Trinamool Congress (TMC) leader tweeted.

What did three services chiefs say?

While defending the Agnipath scheme, Indian Army chief General Manoj Pande said it will be beneficial to all.

“I feel that the youth does not know all the proper information on the Agnipath scheme. Once they get to know about the scheme, they will have faith that this scheme is not only for the youth but is also beneficial to all,” General Pande told ANI.

“As far as the question of Agniveers going to recruitment training centres is concerned, the training of first Agniveers will begin this December (in 2022) at the centres. The active service will commence in the middle of 2023,” he added.

Also read: Agnipath: States on alert over Bharat Bandh calls; Railways cancels 500 trains

Indian Air Force (IAF) chief Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari told the news agency, “The government has announced Agnipath scheme under which youth will be able to join armed forces. The age criteria will be 17.5 to 21 years. Happy to announce that for the first recruitment, the upper age limit has been revised to 23 years. It will benefit the youth. Air Force recruitment will begin on June 24.”

“I didn’t anticipate any protests like this. We worked on Agnipath scheme for almost a year & half… It’s single biggest Human Resources Management transformation in Indian military…Protests are happening due to misinformation & misunderstanding of the scheme,” Indian Navy chief Admiral R Hari Kumar told the news agency.

On Sunday, at a press conference, Lt General Anil Puri, the additional secretary of the department of military affairs, said that those involved in protests won’t be able to join the Agnipath scheme.

“Every individual who wants to join the armed forces through the Agnipath scheme will have to submit a pledge that they were neither part of any protest nor were involved in any violence. Nobody can join the forces without police verification… We have made the provisions,” he said.

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