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India

As Farmer Unions Extend Support to Protesting Defence Aspirants, For Centre Both Were ‘Misled’

The Agnipath issue seems to be unfolding in a similar way to the farm laws that were introduced by the Union Government in September 2020.

New Delhi: Activists of AISA and other organisations stage a protest against the newly announced Agnipath scheme, in New Delhi, Friday, June 17, 2022. (PTI Photo/Atul Yadav)

The pressure is building up over the rollback of the newly launched Agnipath scheme. Most of the opposition has condemned the contractualisation of the Army and even many Army veterans who have often seconded the stance of the Modi government have said that this would reduce the efficiency of the forces in the long run.

The Agnipath issue seems to be unfolding in a similar way to the farm laws that were introduced by the Union Government in September 2020. The only difference lies in the way the protest over these schemes has taken place.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), who ran a year-long peaceful resistance to the farm laws, even supported the protesting aspirants and pledged to hold nationwide protests in their support at Tehsil and District Headquarters. Toll plazas were frozen in Haryana besides gatherings were witnessed in other parts by farmers.

“MLAs and MPs can contest elections up to the age of 90 years and can also avail pension. But imposing retirement on the youth just after four years of service is unfair. We won’t let it happen,” BKU leader Rakesh Tikait was quoted as saying. He added that “four lac tractors are on stand by and farmer unions are ready to support this issue as it needs bigger agitation”.

However, the political and policy analysts say the protestors, who are defence aspirants in this case and will guard the law and order of the country in the future, have weakened their case by indulging in violence. They say that “it is easier for the government to crush a violent agitation”.

The government on the other hand seems to use the violence itself as a means to curb the protests. The Army has said that those applying for posts in the Agnipath scheme would be required to “fill an undertaking form mentioning that they were not involved in any violent activity, incidents of arson that broke out in various states of the country demanding to scrap of the new scheme”. Army has said that police verification of all applicants will be carried out before they are considered for selection.

However, on the now annulled farm laws where the scores of ministers said that they will not be repealed, comments on Agniveer have been no different. National Security Advisor of India, Ajit Doval said that the whole war is undergoing a great change. “We are going toward contactless wars and also going towards the war against the invisible enemy. Technology is taking over at a rapid pace. If we have to prepare for tomorrow, then we have to change,” he said adding there is ‘no question’ of the rollback of this scheme.

He added Indian Army will soon be among the armies with the oldest soldiers. Seeing this as an unfortunate trend, with India going to have more than half of the population under 25 years of age, Agniveers will help to make it more agile and young, said Doval.

However, over the farm laws where the government had pledged to not roll them back with PM Modi saying protests against these were ‘motivated’, his NSA has a similar take on the Agniveer protests too.

Like PM Modi said farmer protests were ‘politically motivated’ and people opposing him were ‘misled’, Doval has said protests by Agniveers were executed by ‘conflict entrepreneurs’. Emphasizing that here too people have been “misguided”, he added, “they are with a vested interest. Whenever they have an opportunity, they… mislead the people,” he said.

(With Inputs From ANI)