Congress, Farmer Groups Keep up Pressure on BJP in Haryana Over Agnipath Scheme

New Delhi: Haryana, which sends a large number of youth to the armed forces, has been witnessing increased protests against the Union government’s Agnipath scheme with the opposition parties and farmers organisations attacking the ruling BJP.

Ever since the government announced the Agnipath scheme, the state has been on a boil. It witnessed violent protests following the announcement of the new recruitment policy for soldiers. Though the protests made the Union government announce some relaxations and the Manohar Lal Khattar led-BJP government in Haryana also assured guaranteed government jobs to the Agniveers who would not be absorbed in the armed forces, the issue continues to simmer.

Under the Agnipath scheme, only 25% of ‘Agniveers’ would be absorbed into the armed forces after the completion of their four-year duty. The others would be discharged and will have to look for opportunities elsewhere.

Fresh from its impressive showing in the civic body polls, the Congress on Monday staged state-wide demonstrations against the scheme. Leading the protests in Rohtak, former chief minister and the leader of opposition in the assembly, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, said the Agnipath scheme would only weaken the country’s army and reduce its numbers.

‘Over 2 lakh posts in forces remain vacant’

Noting that the scheme was aimed at downsizing the force, he said, this policy would hit Haryana the hardest as it sends a large number of its youth into the forces every year. He said every year between 5,000 and 7,000 youth from Haryana used to be recruited into the Army but the numbers have dropped sharply since no recruitment has not taken place over the past three years. As such, he said, nearly 20,000 youth from the state have not been absorbed during this period.

Elaborating on the issue, Hooda said: “Two lakh posts are vacant due to non-recruitment by the Army over the last three years. The government should have made recruitments for vacant posts but instead, it is doing this.”

The former CM also charged that the Khattar government’s assurance of providing permanent jobs to Agniveers was nothing but a hollow promise. “The government,” he said, “must answer why it has given jobs to only 543 out of 29,275 ex-servicemen so far. The permanent jobs they are promising must be given before the youths are sent out on four-year deputation.”

In view of the prevailing tension on the borders with China and Pakistan, the senior Congress leader said it is essential that the Union government does not indulge in this kind of experimentation.

‘Would Haryana’s offer of jobs to Agniveers not violate quota norms?’

Earlier this month, following largescale protests against the scheme, Khattar had declared that Agniveers who wants to join Haryana government services will be given a guaranteed job. “No one will go without a job,” he said.

He said the discharged Agniveers would be given Group C services in Haryana. These services comprise non-gazetted posts such as clerks, teachers and office assistants, or police.

Khattar’s claim was questioned by the opposition, demanding how the government plans to guarantee jobs without crossing the ceiling of 50% reservation. “How will you create another category beyond 50% reservation? Anyone will challenge this additional category for the Agnipath scheme in court and youth will again have nowhere to go,” senior Congress leader and former MP Randeep Singh Surjewala asked.

SKM, khap panchayats also oppose Agnipath Meanwhile, some farmers’ associations and khap panchayats have also opposed the scheme. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which had spearheaded the anti-farmers law agitation, has now slammed the Agnipath scheme. A large number of farmers owing allegiance to the SKM had protested against the scheme across Haryana last Friday. They also submitted a memorandum to the president of India seeking its immediate withdrawal. The protest by SKM had also drawn in a large number of ex-servicemen and youngsters who wanted to join the armed forces. Bhartiya Kisan Union (Tikait) Haryana president Ratan Mann had led the protest in Karnal. He claimed that the scheme would deprive many youth of their dream to join the army and at the same time would pose a threat to national security. On the ground that the sentiments of youth, who had been preparing for joining the armed forces, should be respected, the SKM urged that the Union government return to the previous recruitment system. Another SKM leader Inderjit Singh had urged the Centre to pay heed to the demands of the protesters saying the agitation would be intensified if the government would seek to ignore them. Some Khap panchayats in Haryana, which dictate norms in their respective areas, also came out against the Agnipath scheme and threatened those who fill the application forms with social boycott. In Rohtak’s Sampla town, where a khap mahapanchayat was organised, Om Prakash Dhankar, the head of the Dhankar khap, stated that the cases against those who protested the scheme should be withdrawn. The khap leaders also announced that they would be boycotting the functions organised by the BJP and its ally, the Jannayak Janata Party. Incidentally, during the farmers agitation too, leaders of both these parties faced strong protests across the state.

(Courtesy The