Former Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh joined a large number of veterans in questioning the logic behind doing away a “perfectly good working system” in existence. Also, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and his Chhattisgarh counterpart Bhupesh Baghel, both from the Congress, wanted to know the “intention” behind the move.
Capt Amarinder, who has served in the Sikh Regiment and whose family has a longer association with the Regiment, also slammed the move to recruit soldiers under ‘All India All Class’ method of recruitment saying this will sound the death knell of single class Regiments. “What is the rationale to do so, I do not understand,” said Amarinder speaking on phone to The Indian Express from London. He added that the All India class experiment with single class regiments had been introduced in the 80s and had failed. “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,” he asked.
Amarinder also said that with a four-year stint, a soldier would barely have enough time to gather basic experience of soldiering before he would be out in the street. “There used to be a seven-year service period and a reserve liability of seven years. But four years is too less a time for a soldier to be effective at the cutting edge,” he said.
Meanwhile, Congress Chief Ministers Ashok Gehlot (Rajasthan) and Bhupesh Baghel (Chhattisgarh) also raised serious questions on the provisions in the Agnipath scheme.
“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,” Baghel told reporters.
He said the Government’s intention is not to give jobs. “You have bad intentions. You are trying to instigate the youth. Give them jobs for 20 years,” he said at a press conference with Gehlot.
Gehlot 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.”
In a statement, Congress communication department head Randeep Surjewala said the new recruitment scheme is against the dignity, tradition and the custom of discipline in the forces.
Senior Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also hit out at the government. “This government is a government of ‘maha jumlas’. The Prime Minister is not an expert in creating jobs…he is an expert in making ‘news’ about jobs,” he said in a Twitter post.