the recruitment process will remain unchanged and the traditional regimentation system in the military will continue.
The scheme, which envisages a four-year term for 75 per cent recruits, was an outcome of a long period of consultation within the three services and the ministry of defence besides deliberation among several wings of the government. It is a much needed reform, he said at a tri-service press conference. Various committees since 1989 had made recommendations on these lines, he said, adding that all stakeholders were involved in finalising the Agnipath scheme.
With youths at several places resorting to violence to protest the scheme, Lt Gen Puri said all applicants for ‘Agnipath’ will have to give an undertaking that they were not part of any violence. “There is no place for arson and violence in the armed forces,” he said.
Referring to police verification, he noted that it has always been a part of recruitment process. Over the years, the profile of commanding officers in the military has become younger. Now, the profile of soldiers will become youthful, he said.
Backing the scheme, an official said Agnipath will not dent but improve the army’s combat capabilities. Protests against the scheme, which was unveiled on June 12, have ebbed away in the last few days.
Officials said at the presser that ‘Agniveers’, a term for those recruited under the scheme, will be eligible for gallantry awards and the scheme is being rolled out so that armed forces draw best talents.
The Supreme Court, meanwhile said the plea for an SIT probe into the damage to public properties during the protests against Agnipath scheme will be listed for hearing after the Chief Justice of India takes a decision in this regard. The Agnipath scheme, announced on June 14, provides for the recruitment of youths in the age group of 17-and-a-half-years to 21 years for a four-year stint with a provision to retain 25 per cent of them for 15 more years.
Referring to the practice of listing cases during vacation, the bench said, “This matter will be placed before the CJI. The CJI will take a call.” The Public Interest Litigation also sought directions to the Centre, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Bihar, Haryana and Rajasthan governments to submit a status report on the violent protests. Tiwari, in his petition, also sought a direction to set up an expert committee under the chairmanship of a retired apex court judge to examine the scheme and its impact on national security and the army.
The three service chiefs are likely to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi separately on Tuesday to brief him about the Agnipath scheme as well as their plan for its implementation. It is learnt that the chiefs would apprise the prime minister about various aspects of implementation of the scheme. There was no official word about the meetings between the prime minister and the service chiefs.
Farmers’ collective Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), which had spearheaded the agitation against the Centre’s now-scrapped agri laws, on Monday dubbed Agnipath as another ploy to harm peasants and announced a nationwide protest on June 24 against the Centre’s new military recruitment scheme. In a statement, the SKM declared its support for the ongoing protests and appealed to the youths to hold peaceful demonstrations against the Agnipath scheme, which it decried as “anti-military, anti-farmer and anti-national”.
Several organisations on Monday held a demonstration against the Agnipath scheme at Jantar Mantar. All the member organisations of Sanyukt Rojgaar Andolan Samiti (SRAS) including Desh Ki Baat Foundation, Chatra Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS), Revolutionary Youth Association (RYA), Students’ Federation of India (SFI) and the Aam Aadmi Party youth wing participated in the “peaceful” demonstration, the SRAS said. “The Agnipath scheme by the Modi government betrays the youth and weakens the army,” it alleged.
(With PTI inputs)