Launching an offensive against the Centre over the Agnipath scheme, the Congress on Monday cited late Gen Bipin Rawat’s 2020 proposal to raise soldiers and officers’ retirement age to ask if the new recruitment plan was not an insult to the approach of India’s first chief of defence staff.
Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken said Gen Rawat had advocated raising the retirement age of soldiers to 58 years.
“A circular dated October 2020 of the time of late CDS Gen Bipan Rawat is there and also his interview where he says soldiers retire after 17 years, but their retirement age should be raised to 58 years.
“He says raising this age will help jawans serve the country better. Is Agnipath not an insult to the thoughts of Gen Rawat?” Maken asked the government.
The Congress leader said, “When Gen Bipin Rawat is saying this, and no one is more qualified than him, are all service chiefs going against the approach of Gen Rawat?” “Has the government tried to follow the proposal of Gen Rawat?” The Congress said that while India’s first CDS wanted the retirement age raised to 58 years, the BJP-led government “wants to retire soldiers after four years”.
“This is shameful. At least do not insult the CDS, his thought and approach,” Maken said.
The Congress leader also questioned the manner in which the new recruitment scheme was brought and said, “Bureaucrats sitting in AC rooms drafted the plan and asked political leaders to defend it.” Maken alleged that all major decisions of the government had been riddled with infirmities due to the lack of democratic consultations with elected members and the lack of discussions in Parliament.
“Note ban saw 60 changes in 50 days, GST saw 376 changes in 10 months, three farm laws were fully withdrawn, CAA rules have not been notified in 2.5 years and Agnipath has already seen 11 changes in five days.
“All major decisions have been taken without thought, without public discussion and public discourse, only by officers sitting in AC rooms,” alleged Maken.
He said in a democracy the most important input for a policy is that of the people and their elected representative and not of a few officers who pass an exam and draft policies.
“Why waste money on elections if elected MPs are not to be consulted, if Parliament is not to take up important matters, and if select committees are not to review major issues?,” Maken posed.
Later, Congress leaders proceeded to Jantar Mantar for the second day of Satyagraha against the Agnipath scheme and also the alleged political vendetta in the ED case against Rahul Gandhi.
The Congress will also petition President Ram Nath Kovind at 5 pm on Monday and raise the issue of alleged assault on its MPs by the Delhi Police and the alleged misuse of probe agencies to “muzzle the voice of the opposition”.
The Congress is staging a Satyagraha at Jantar Mantar demanding withdrawal of the Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the defence services, with all its senior leaders present there.
Also, Rahul Gandhi’s questioning by the ED resumed on Monday after a break of a few days.
The Congress said Gandhi had been questioned for over 30 hours already and asked the government to “stop selective media leaks that can influence the probe”.
“Media leaks are illegal and must stop. These are attempts to conduct a public trial and set false narratives,” Maken said citing the legal notice Congress legal cell head Vivek Tankha sent to the Union finance minister, home minister and Law minister asking them to stop the selective leaks.
On the Agnipath plan, the Congress reiterated its demand for a rollback saying, “The government must listen to the youth and immediately roll back the scheme. A detailed discussion must be held with the stakeholders before any scheme affecting the youth is rolled out.” Maken made light of government allegations that the anti-Agnipath protesters were being misled.
“This is what the prime minister said during the farmers’ agitation also… The farmers were called Khalistanis and then later the prime minister apologised,” said the Congress leader.
He also asked if even one reform the government brought had been successful.