The chief minister of Punjab, Bhagwant Mann, has demanded that the Agnipath Defense recruitment program be scrapped, saying: “We cannot keep soldiers on loan base. How can we make them ex-soldiers at only 21 years old? They protect it country in dire conditions.”
The leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) further told ANI: “Politicians never retire; it is only soldiers and the public who retire.”
This is in line with the view of his party chief and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal of the plan, which is being opposed by army candidates in several states. Delhi also saw violent protests on Friday, as did Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Telangana, among others.
We can’t keep soldiers on loan. How can we make them ex-soldiers already at the age of 21? They protect the country in harsh conditions. Politicians never retire, it’s just soldiers, the public retires… We don’t need a mercenary army. Agnipath Plan Should Be Taken Back: Punjab CM Bhagwant Mann pic.twitter.com/Gqn0lpyMtg
— ANI (@ANI) June 17, 2022
The Agnipath scheme involves the hiring of men and women (referred to as ‘Agniveers’) between the ages of 17.5 and 21 on a four-year contract in all three services; at the end of which only up to 25 percent of them may be regularly recruited. The government has relaxed the age limit for this year as there has been no recruitment for the past two years. But the protesters are not satisfied.
Mr Mann also tweeted in Punjabi: “After two years of not having any recruiting rallies, this is a new government mandate that you will only be employed for four years. And no pension either. This is an insult to the armed forces; a betrayal of the youth of India. Their anger is a result of this ill-considered decision. We demand that the decision be reversed.”
2 ਸਾਲ ਫੌਜ ‘ਚ ਭਰਤੀ ‘ਤੇ ਰੋਕ ਲਗਾਉਣ ਤੋਂ ਬਾਅਦ ਕੇਂਦਰ ਦਾ ਨਵਾਂ ਫਰਮਾਨ ਕਿ 4 ਸਾਲ ਫੌਜ ‘ਚ ਰਹੋ..ਬਾਅਦ ‘ਚ ਪੈਨਸ਼ਨ ਵੀ ਨਾ ਮਿਲੇ..ਇਹ ਫੌਜ ਦਾ ਵੀ ਅਪਮਾਨ ਹੈ..ਦੇਸ਼ ਦੇ ਨੌਜਵਾਨਾਂ ਨਾਲ ਵੀ ਧੋਖਾ ਹੈ. .ਦੇਸ਼ ਭਰ ਦੇ ਨੌਜਵਾਨਾਂ ਦਾ ਇਹ ਗੁੱਸਾ..ਬਿਨਾਂ ਸੋਚੇ ਸਮਝੇ ਲਏ ਗਏ ਫ਼ੈਸਲੇ ਦਾ ਨਤੀਜਾ ਹੈ..ਫ਼ੈਸਲਾ ਤੁਰੰਤ ਵਾਪਸ ਲੈਣ ਦੀ ਮੰਗ ਕਰਦੇ ਹਾਂ..
— Bhagwant Mann (@BhagwantMann) June 17, 2022
The Prime Minister’s comments can be seen in the context of Punjab’s contribution to the Indian military in particular. With nearly 90,000 soldiers in the military, Punjab accounts for nearly 8 percent of its strength, though the state has only about 2 percent of the country’s population. Along with Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the state is a high contributor to the armed forces, according to figures shared by the government in parliament last year, as reported by The Tribune.
So far, Punjab has not seen any violent protests, although military aspirants have expressed concern about the plan. In a BBC Punjabi video report, an aspirant named Rajanbir Singh said: “We will now have to think about going abroad like many of our friends. We have spent so many years preparing this and now we only get a four – year job. This is unfair.”