'Politicians Never Retire, But Soldiers...': Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann Opposes Agnipath

Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has said anger of the army aspirants is understandable.

New Delhi:

Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has demanded scraping of the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme, saying, “We can’t keep soldiers on rent. How can we make them ex-soldiers merely at age of 21? They protect the country in harsh conditions.”

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader further told ANI, “Politicians never retire; it’s only soldiers and public who retire.”

This is in line with his party boss and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s views on the scheme, which is being opposed by army aspirants in several states. Delhi, too, saw violent protests on Friday, as did Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Telangana, among other parts of the country. 

The Agnipath scheme entails hiring of men and women (to be called ‘Agniveers’) aged between 17.5 and 21 on four-year contracts in all three services; at the end of which only up to 25 per cent of them may be give regular recruitment. The government has relaxed the upper age limit for this year as there has been no recruitment for the past two years. But the protesters are not satisfied.  

Mr Mann also tweeted, in Punjabi, “After not holding recruitment rallies for two years, this is a new diktat of the government, that you will get just four years in service. And no pension either. This is a insult to the armed forces; a betrayal with the youth of India. Their anger is a result of this thoughtless decision. We demand that the decision be taken back.”

The chief minister’s comments can be seen in the context of Punjab’s contribution to the Indian Army in particular. With nearly 90,000 soldiers in the Army, Punjab accounts for nearly 8 per cent of its strength, even though the state has only around 2 per cent of the country’s population. Along with Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, the state has a high contribution towards the forces, according to figures shared by the government in Parliament last year, as reported by The Tribune.

So far, Punjab has not seen any violent protests, though army aspirants have voiced their concerns regarding the scheme. In a video report by BBC Punjabi, an aspirant named Rajanbir Singh said, “We will have to now think of going abroad like many of our friends. We have spent so many years preparing for this and now we are only being given a four-year job. This is unfair.” 

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