Sonia Calls For Peaceful Stir As Cong Demands Agnipath Rollback

| Updated: 18 June, 2022 8:02 pm IST
Congress president Sonia Gandhi (file photo)


NEW DELHI: As violent protests against the recently-announced military recruitment scheme ‘Agnipath’ continued in several parts of India, Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Saturday appealed to protesters to observe restraint and maintain peace as the party demanded its rollback.

Gandhi, in a statement, called the new recruitment scheme “directionless” and said the party “stands firmly” with the youth of the country. She urged the demonstrators to follow the path of truth and non-violence.

The statement was released by Congress media in-charge and former union minister Jairam Ramesh on behalf of the Congress chief who has been in Delhi’s Sir Ganga Ram Hospital since June 12 for Covid-related issues.

Addressing the protesters, the Congress president said, “I am pained to note that the government has ignored your voices and announced a new military recruitment scheme, which is completely directionless.”

Gandhi, 75, expressed “full sympathy” with the protesting youths waiting for the results of the Air Force recruitment examination.

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“The Indian National Congress stands firmly with you and promises to fight to get this scheme withdrawn, and to protect your interests,” Gandhi stated.

“Like a true patriot, we will raise your voice following the path of truth, non-violence, and peace,” she added.

Thousands of youths have taken to the streets in several parts of the country to protest the four-year service norm introduced in the ‘Agnipath’ scheme. The protesters have torched several trains and private vehicles in Bihar.

Incidents of vandalism of BJP offices and public properties have been reported from other states like Uttarakhand and Madhya Pradesh and Haryana as well.

Several Opposition parties including Congress, Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Communist Party of India (CPI), and Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress have criticised the government for “playing with the future of the country”.

At a press conference earlier today, senior Congress leader Pramod Tiwari demanded a rollback of the scheme, saying it provides “no rank and no pension” but “only tension”.

“It is said that the Agnipath is meant to save money from the government exchequer. But where was the government when our assets were being sold at very low prices?”

Congress leader Pawan Khera alleged RSS hand behind the introduction of the scheme. “RSS wants to infiltrate our forces. What is the reason behind inducting only one out of 4 (or 25 per cent) of the Agniveers into armed forces? You are trying to militarize society which is a serious issue,” he alleged.

Khera said the Agnipath scheme will turn out to be a disaster like demonetisation.

Former JNU students’ leader Kanhaiya Kumar, who is in Congress now, highlighted the unemployment rate in Bihar and urged protesters not to indulge in violence.

To assuage protesters, several Union ministries and various state governments have announced reservations for Agniveers, as the recruits would be known, in jobs.

The Central government has announced to raise the maximum age limit for the aspirants from 21 years to 23 years for the year 2022. Union ministries of defence and home have announced a 10 per cent reservation for Agniveers in jobs in several of their departments.

Many state governments, particularly those ruled by BJP and its allies, have come up with plans to give preference in recruitments to Agniveers.

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