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Western UP Farmers Support Youth Against ‘No Rank, No Pension’ Scheme

Thousands of farmers gathered in their respective district collectorates to protest Agnipath following a call by SKM.

Lucknow: Thousands of farmers in western Uttar Pradesh (UP) gathered in their respective district collectorates on Friday in solidarity with youths protesting the short-term armed forces recruitment scheme Agnipath.

Following a call by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) to join the protest, farmers from Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Bijnor, Shamli, Saharanpur, Ghaziabad and other western UP districts reached their collectorates on Friday afternoon when they were stopped by the police.

Several prominent Khap leaders and ex-servicemen also participated in the protests. A memorandum addressed to President Ram Nath Kovind to immediately roll bank the “anti-youth” scheme was submitted at the district headquarters across the state.

The protesting farmers said that Agnipath will “reduce the effectiveness of the armed forces” and that youths hired under the scheme will be “jobless after four years”.

The BJP-led Union government is playing with the future of the youth. They will be jobless after four years. The old pension scheme has already been scrapped. Now, a conspiracy has been hatched to deprive those who serve the country by joining the Army of pension and other facilities and perks,” Naresh Tikait, president, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), who joined the protest in Muzaffarnagar, told Newsclick, adding that the “Centre should not play with the future of the youth and withdraw the scheme immediately”.

Uttar Pradesh Kisan Sabha state general secretary Rajendra Yadav, who led the protest in Ghazipur, said, “The Agnipath scheme is the classic example of privatising everything. The government is not only privatising public sector units but also handing over social security to a stock market-based system. This will gradually ruin everything and the entire country will be in a mess.”

Farmers in large numbers joined the SKM call in Ghazipur, Ballia, Siddharthnagar, Deoria and Basti. “The armed forces recruit about 60,000 youth annually but there has been no recruitment in the Army, Navy and Air Force in the last two-and-a-half years. There are 1.30 lakh vacancies in the armed forces. Not just the Agnipath scheme but the defence ministry has also initiated the optimisation exercise to reduce the manpower by 15%,” the SKM alleged. The farmers also demanded the withdrawal of all cases registered against youths involved in anti-Agnipath protests.

After six months of training and three-and-a-half years of service, 75% of youths will be discharged without a pension, medical benefits, canteen benefits or other facilities. As an afterthought, the Centre has now announced that 75%of Aginveers will be absorbed into other jobs,” BKU leader Yar Mohammad said in  Siddharthnagar. “This promise was already made to ex-servicemen but it proved to be hollow.”

Meanwhile, hundreds of farmer leaders were placed under house arrest hours before the demonstrations. They claimed that the police reached the houses of farmer leaders who had supported the Agnipath protesters.

Farmers have always been standing shoulder to shoulder with the youth in this struggle. This scheme is not only playing with the national security and dreams of unemployed youth but also with the families of farmers. The jawan of this country is a uniformed farmer. Most of the soldiers are from farmer families. Army job is tied to the honour and economic strength of numerous farmer families. It is a matter of shame for the country that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who started his victory campaign by rallying ex-servicemen with the promise of ‘one rank, one pension’, has now launched this scheme of ‘no rank no pension’,” farmers gathered in Azamgarh told Newsclick.

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