The unrest among the youth over the Agnipath scheme appears to be petering out, with reports coming from Gwalior (MP), Sikar (Rajasthan) and Satara (Maharashtra) about many aspirants preparing for the forthcoming recruitments. The Indian Army on Monday issued the recruitment notification and online registration will begin in July.
Under the Agnipath scheme, 46,000 Agniveers will be inducted this year. Out of this, 40,000 Agniveers will be recruited by the Army and 3,000 each by the Navy and Air Force. Agniveers will be inducted in two batches through 83 recruitment rallies between August and November in different parts of India. Training of 25,000 Agniveers will begin in December, and for the remaining 15,000, training will begin in February, sources said.
The most positive development is that not a single incident of arson or stoning by youths took place anywhere in India on Monday. A clear message seems to have gone out to the aspirants that they would lose out on recruitment if there are police verification reports against them. Aspirants will have to file an affidavit saying that they never indulged in violence.
Political parties however continued to grind their axe by opposing the Agnipath scheme, but most of the top corporates in India have welcomed this scheme and have promised to induct Agniveers who retire from the armed forces after four years. These include Tata group, Mahindra, RPG, Biocon, JSW group and Hindustan Unilever. The Bharat Bandh call given by some organisations on Monday had practically no impact across India. There was less traffic on the roads in Bihar, but life continued to be normal in UP, MP, Rajasthan, Haryana and other states.
A total of 159 FIRs have been filed in Bihar, which bore the brunt of the violence. 877 persons were arrested, and FIRs were filed against three coaching centre owners in Patna. Coordinators of two coaching centres in Rohtas, Bihar have been arrested. In Aligarh, UP, nine coach centre owners have been taken into custody. Telangana police have also taken action against two coaching centre owners.
Patna Police has issued a poster of 40 miscreants who had indulged in arson and stoning and had attacked a police station in Paliganj. The SDO and Additional SP of Paliganj spoke to local leaders, coaching centre owners and parents to persuade job aspirants to refrain from violence.
Bihar Police is now targeting the admins of WhatsApp groups who were inciting the youths to protest. Delta Team of Bihar Police is going through social media accounts to trace the inciters. Delta Team is keeping a watch on more than 10 Telegram groups, nearly 500 Facebook pages, WhatsApp groups and YouTube channels.
Modi baiters from different political parties also incited the passions of the youth, and when incidents of arson and violence petered out in Bihar, political activists jumped into the fray, posing as army job aspirants. Most of the coaching academies that train 100 to 300 youth are politically connected. The coaching centre owners felt their business would wind up if the Agnipath scheme was implemented.
When the Bharat Bandh call on Monday did not elicit any response, Congress workers tried to stop a train at a small station in New Delhi as a token measure, but quickly dispersed when police stepped in. Their leaders, including two chief ministers and several MPs, spewed venom against Prime Minister Narendra Modi at their ‘satyagraha’ in Delhi, with a former minister Subodh Kant Sahay comparing Modi with Hitler.
Subodh Kant Sahay said, “I feel that Prime Minister Modi has gone beyond all that was done by Hitler. Hitler had created his ‘khaki’ army. I think if Modi continues to walk on Hitler’s path, he will die Hitler’s death. Remember this, Modi.”
Soon after this video was splashed over the media causing nationwide outrage, Sahay tried to retract his remark. Subodh Kant Sahay has been a minister in the cabinets of former PMs V P Singh and Chandrasekhar. He also worked as a minister in Dr Manmohan Singh’s government for a long time. After spending a long time in public life, it was expected that he would know the type of language that should be used by a Prime Minister.
The most surprising was that not a single senior Congress leader present on the dais at that time did not try to stop Sahay from using such crass language. BJP spokesperson Sudhanshu Trivedi reminded us that Congress president Sonia Gandhi had used similar language against Modi in 2007 when she described him as a “maut ka saudagar” (merchant of death).
Congress has a history of using abusive language against Modi in the past. Congress leaders used epithets like “Lahu Purush” (Man of Blood), ‘Zehar Ki Kheti karne waala’ (one who cultivates hate), ‘jawanon ke khoon ki dalaai karne wala’ (merchant of the blood of jawans), ‘neech aadmi’ (rogue), and also compared him with Hitler, Mussolini, General Dyer, Ranga Billa, Hindu Aatanki (Hindu terrorist). There are many more, and if one counts the number of abuses, it could reach 80.
This was not the culture of Congress in the old days. Even today, senior, veteran Congress leaders dislike such abusive epithets. However, there is now a new generation of leaders, apart from failed political leaders in Congress who prefer to use such language. I think, no political leader should be allowed to say that so-and-so deserves to die a Hitler’s death. There are political leaders who are also spreading disinformation.
Trinamool Congress supremo and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday alleged that by introducing the ‘Agnipath’ scheme in the armed forces, BJP is trying “to create an RSS army, which will have armed groups that will be active during the election”. The surprising part is that Mamata Banerjee levelled this allegation inside the state assembly, where the proceedings are recorded. The opposition BJP immediately demanded an apology from the CM saying that she has insulted the army.
There are some other leaders too, who are spreading disinformation. Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram tweeted: “If you wish to be trained as a driver, washerman or barber, become an Agniveer, If you wish to be trained as a chowkidar, become an Agniveer, If you wish to learn to fry pakoras, become on Agniveer. If you wish to become a soldier, do not apply.”
Several misleading claims and allegations are being made on social media by others. One YouTube channel claimed that in the coming years, private agencies will hire Agniveers, while another social media post said, army jawans who did not get promotions till 2019, will now be sent to Agniveer ranks.
AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi in a series of tweets, addressed to Modi, asked: “Why do you want that our youths after serving in the army for 4 years, will stand outside the homes of Adani and Ambani, or in BJP offices as ex-servicemen seeking jobs? Modiji, youths are the future of our country, they are not retired IAS officers who are with you and are on frequent extension. Listen to the voice of youths, accept their demand, and withdraw the Agniveer scheme immediately.”
I was surprised when AAP leader Sanjay Singh alleged that the government, under the Agnipath scheme, will not regard Agniveers as soldiers and will not give them the status of martyrs, if they died during operations.
Senior army officials are on record having said that the army modernization scheme was in the pipeline since 1989, and there were many series of discussions before the Agnipath scheme was drafted. On Monday, Prime Minister Modi said, “the path of reforms is not easy. Several decisions and reforms may be temporarily unpleasant, but with the passage of time, their benefits will be known.”
Modi is right when he says, the path of reforms is not easy. The Agnipath scheme is also aimed at reforming and modernizing our armed forces to make them younger and more energetic. Wars across the world have undergone transformational change, and modernization of our armed forces is the need of the hour.
The confusion that was spread among youths of Bihar, UP, MP, Rajasthan and Haryana, when the scheme was launched, appears to have been more or less cleared. Coaching centres, and political parties, misused this opportunity to grind their own axes, and incited youths to resort to arson and violence. Now that the Centre has published details of recruitment in its notification, most the young aspirants have realized that the Agnipath scheme can open up the path for a golden future.
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