Congress vows to scrap ‘Agnipath’, revert to old military recruitment system if voted to power in LS polls

Mallikarjun Kharge, Rahul Gandhi, Congress, Agnipath scheme, Army, President Murmu, BJP
Image Source : PTI Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge with party leader Rahul Gandhi

Stepping up its attack on the Centre over the ‘Agnipath’ military recruitment scheme, Congress on Monday (February 26) vowed to scrap it and reintroduce the old recruitment system if voted to power at the Centre in the 2024 Lok Sabha polls. The party claimed that “gross injustice” was being done to the youngsters. The party also demanded that appointment be given to the about two lakh youngsters who had cleared the recruitment process but were not given joining letters as the ‘Agnipath’ scheme was launched in 2022.

Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge wrote to President Droupadi Murmu on Monday and sought regular employment in the armed forces while also urging her to ensure “justice” for them.

What did Kharge tell the President?

“The future of nearly two lakh young men and women has become uncertain due to the scrapping of the regular recruitment process in the armed forces,” Kharge said in the letter to the President who is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

“There are many well-known issues with the Agnipath scheme. Former Chief of Army Staff General MM Naravane has written that the Army was ‘taken by surprise’ by Agnipath and that ‘for the Navy and Air Force, it came like a bolt from the blue’,” he added.

Describing the scheme as “discriminatory” among jawans, Kharge said that majority of Agniveers will be released into an “uncertain job market” after four years of service.

“The scheme is discriminatory among our jawans by creating parallel cadres of soldiers who are expected to work on similar tasks, but with very different emoluments, benefits and prospects. The majority of Agniveers will be released into an uncertain job market after four years of service, which some have argued could affect social stability,” Kharge said.

Rahul Gandhi reacts

Tagging Kharge’s letter, Rahul Gandhi said on X, “We are with the military candidates, who are full of patriotism and bravery, in the fight for justice”.

Sachin Pilot holds press conference

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, Congress leader Sachin Pilot said that there was no demand for such a scheme and it will not benefit anybody in the long term.

“In the long term, this scheme will not benefit anybody except saving some money for the government of India. We in the Congress party feel that we should go back to the old recruitment system,” Pilot said.

If some changes are to be introduced to modernise the armed forces, that is very much possible in the current setup, but to completely eradicate the old system is not right, he added.

“It is closing avenues of employment. I think it has been done in an ad-hoc fashion, without much thought to the future prospects of how the Army would function. We in the Congress believe that the Agnipath programme is not a positive development and we will certainly go back to the old recruitment system when people vote us back,” Pilot said.

The ‘Agnipath’ scheme provides for recruiting youngsters in the age bracket of 17 years and a half to 21 years for a four-year period, with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years.

(With PTI inputs)

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