A day after the central government announced the ‘Agnipath’ scheme for recruiting younger soldiers, former Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh joined others in criticising the government’s move to replace a “perfectly good working system”. Earlier, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel had warned that the move to hand over guns to the youth and train them to kill might create a destabilising situation in the country.
Questioning the logic behind the ‘All India All Class’ method of recruitment, Amarinder Singh, who was posted with the Sikh Regiment, said that this measure will kill the already existing single class Regiments. “What is the rationale to do so, I do not understand,” Amarinder was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
Pointing out that a similar exercise had turned futile, Amarinder told IE, “These regiments have been performing well in their present character so why change it? I do not agree at all with this move. These regiments have their own traditions and way of living and how do you expect a person who is not from that background to understand that.”
Amarinder also stated that the proposed four years of training was too less a time to get ready, as a minimum of six-seven years is required. “There used to be a seven-year service period and a reserve liability of seven years. But four years is too little time for a soldier to be effective at the cutting edge,” he told IE.
Raising questions on the intention of the scheme, Chattisgarh CM Baghel told journalists at a press conference, “It (the scheme) means that the jawans will be taught how to fire a gun and then let them off into society. What do they intend to do? If they are recruiting people into the forces, then allow them to continue till 35 years. By then they will gain maturity. You are going to recruit an 18 year old boy and leave him at 22 giving him a gun and a gun license…aap kya banana chahte hai desh ko. Kis disha main le jana chah rahe hain, while adding, “You have bad intentions. You are trying to instigate the youth. Give them jobs for 20 years.”.
Rajasthan CM Gehlot, who was present at the same presser, joined in and added, “And who will be those youngsters? Will they be workers of the RSS or the BJP? It is to be seen. You are going to teach them to handle weapons for four years. You had promised to give 2 crore jobs every year. They don’t have an answer to that. Unemployment is at an all-time high, people are facing problems…and they have floated a new ‘shagoofa’…only time will tell what is their approach.”
Yesterday, the government, while unveiling the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, said that the forces will start a mass recruitment drive in 90 days to employ 46,000 ‘Agniveers’ this year in a bid to lower the average age of the Indian army and, the eligible age for selection being between 17.5 years to 21 years.