Agnipath Gets Backing from Cong’s Manish Tewari; Says ‘Need of Younger Armed Forces a Reality Today’

Known to not always toe the party line on contentious issues, senior Congress leader Manish Tewari has backed the Centre’s newly announced Agnipath recruitment process for the armed forces. Even as youngsters aspiring for a career in the army stage protests in many parts of the country, Tewari said while he understood their concerns, he feels that India “needs a younger armed forces”.

Expressing his view on the issue, which seemed divergent from the position of his party, the Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib said on Twitter, “I do empathise with youth who have concerns over Agnipath recruitment process. Reality is India needs a younger armed force with lighter human footprint savvy on technology, equipped with state of art weaponry. Armed forces of Union shouldn’t be an employment guarantee programme.”

Tewari said there was a need for a younger armed forces as modern-day warfare had become more technologically advanced. The MP said the army must have a “lighter footprint”. According to media reports, he has said the Agnipath scheme was a reform in the “right direction”.

The central government’s announcement has been met with opposition by the Congress, with senior leader Rahul Gandhi saying there is “no stable future” for those who opt for this scheme. He also said this was a sign that the Narendra Modi-led government had no respect for the army.

On Wednesday, he tweeted: “No rank, no pension, no direct recruitment for 2 years, no stable future after four years, no respect shown by the government for the army.”

The Congress has demanded the withdrawal of the Agnipath scheme, even as the government issued a clarification stating that the new model will not only bring in new capabilities to the armed forces but also open up avenues in the private sector.

Other opposition parties, too, chimed in. Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav called the move “negligent” and potentially “fatal” for the country’s future.

Protests have erupted in several states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana for the second consecutive day. Trains were set on fire, window panes of buses smashed and passersby, including a ruling BJP MLA, pelted with stones in Bihar by defence job aspirants.

Apart from issuing a ‘Myth vs Facts’ document to address the concerns, the Centre issued a series of social media posts saying in the coming years, recruitment of ‘Agniveers’ will be around triple the current recruitment in armed forces and ruled out any change to the regimental system.

“The scheme will bring in new dynamism to the armed forces. It will help the forces bring in new capabilities and take advantage of the technical skills and fresh thinking of the youths… It will allow the youths to serve the nation,” the Press Information Bureau said in a Facebook post.

Referring to the financial package of around Rs 11.71 lakh to be given to each recruit at the end of the four-year tenure from the ‘Seva Nidhi Package’, it said it will provide financial independence to the youths and even help them to venture into entrepreneurship.

(With PTI inputs)

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