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Farmers, Ex-Servicemen, Youth Launch Nationwide Agnipath Protest

‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ public meetings will be held in villages from August 7 to August 14. 
In a press conference held on Saturday, the three groups called Agnipath scheme “disastrous”. Image clicked by Ronak Chhabra

In a press conference held on Saturday, the three groups called Agnipath scheme “disastrous”. Image clicked by Ronak Chhabra.

New Delhi: Farmers, ex-servicemen and youths jointly launched a nationwide campaign against the controversial short-service military recruitment scheme Agnipath in the national capital on Saturday.

In a press conference held at the Indian Women’s Press Corps, Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), United Front of Ex-Servicemen and numerous youth organisations announced to join hands to protest Agnipath.

Calling the scheme “disastrous” not only for jobless youth and farming families but also for the armed forces and national security, the organisations declared that their struggle against Agnipath will continue until it is withdrawn.

In the first phase of the campaign, ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’ public meetings would be held in villages from August 7 to August 14. Major public meetings would be held in Haryana’s Jind, Uttar Pradesh’s Mathura and Kolkata on August 7; Madhya Pradesh’s Indore on August 10; Bihar’s Patna on August 11; and in various locations in Punjab on August 12 and 13, among others.

The organisations said that their campaign aims to compel the Centre by using “democratic, peaceful and constitutional means” to roll back the controversial scheme.

The SKM had spearheaded the last year’s movement of farmers and forced the Narendra Modi government to repeal the three contentious farm laws. “If the farm laws were dire, the Agnipath scheme is disastrous,” said SKM leader Yogendra Yadav told the media. The nationwide campaign will organise multiple public meetings in different villages to educate the public about the consequences of the controversial scheme, Yadav said.

Termination of on-going recruitment is a betrayal of those aspirants who had prepared for it for years and were waiting for final results of their hard work,” said another SKM leader and All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Hannan Mollah.

Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) leader Rakesh Tikait said that the youth will only accept Agnipath if similar fixed-term contracts are also introduced in Parliament, the judiciary or the police. “The new scheme is a serious setback to farming families who have contributed to the nation by sending their youths to the armed forces,” he said.

Major General Satbir Singh, SM (Rtd.), a member of the United Front of Ex-Servicemen, claimed that Agnipath would mean a “drastic reduction” in the size of the armed forces from the present sanctioned strength of 14 lakhs to merely 7 lakhs. Replacing the bulk of the regular troops with Agniveers will also “seriously hamper” operational capacity and the moral of the armed forces at a time when “external threats to national security are on the rise”, he added.

The three organisations demanded the continuation of the “tried and time-tested” method of regular and permanent recruitment to immediately fill about 1.25 lakh vacancies in the armed forces. “This is all the more important given the high unemployment level in the country,” noted student leader and Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union leader Aishe Ghosh. “The Agnipath scheme would be a severe jolt to the unemployed youth, who already face a reduction in public-sector employment opportunities,” she said.

The groups also flayed the Centre for taking action against Agnipath protesters in June and demanded their immediate release and withdrawal of cases against them.

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