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Agnipath: Army aspirants protest in Jmu, Govt tries to bust myths

Army aspirants on Thursday staged a protest here against the Agnipath scheme to recruit jawans on a contractual basis for a four-year-period followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.

Most of these aspirants have cleared their medical and physical tests for their recruitment in the army last year and were awaiting the written examination, but it now stands cancelled.

“We submitted our forms for the recruitment in the army in February 2020 but the process started a year later due to COVID-19 outbreak. The written test was initially scheduled for April 25 last year but was postponed several times,” Munish Sharma, an army aspirant, said.

Sharma was among a large number of youngsters who assembled outside the Press Club here to protest against the new recruitment scheme.
“Today, we came to know that the process for our recruitment stands cancelled and we have to re-apply in accordance with Agnipath. It is a great injustice to us,” he said, adding that the new scheme had rendered “the youth hopeless”.
He said the protesting aspirants worked hard over the last couple of years to ensure their selection in the army. Another army aspirant Sourav Gangotra said the pension bills of MPs and MLAs are increasing but the government is not willing to provide pensions to aspiring soldiers.
He demanded that the new scheme be withdrawn and written examination for the vacancies announced previously be held at the earliest.
Another group of youngsters staged a protest at Arnia in R S Pura sector in the outskirts of Jammu. They blocked the main road and also burnt tyres before being persuaded by the police to disperse.
“This government is playing with our future. We want our selection as per the old recruitment scheme as we have already cleared the physical and medical tests last year,” Gourav Manhas, a protester, said.
Meanwhile the government on Thursday tried to address the myths surrounding the newly- launched Agnipath scheme of recruitment in the three Services, even as protests against the scheme turned violent in several parts of the country.
At least three trains were set on fire in Bihar and there were incidents of protestors clashing with police forces in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
The government’s citizen engagement platform MyGovIndia came up with a short video on social media, which made an attempt to clear the doubts on the scheme to placate the agitators.
“Beware of the lies being spread about the Agnipath scheme. Learn how this scheme will open the doors of opportunities for the youth,” the platform said on Twitter.
The video tried to prove that the scheme will provide a great opportunity to serve the armed forces to the youth and that the exposure to discipline during the transformative years of their lives will lay the foundation for a successful life.
The video first talked about the questions being raised on the scheme and then made an attempt to answer them.
“Those who spread confusion are asking – employment for only four years, what will be the future after four years, no pension, no guarantee of the future, the forces will become inexperienced,” it said.
Clarifying the doubts, the video further said, “With this scheme, the dream of youth to join the forces will come true. This will bring in patriotism in the youth. Unemployed youth will get four years of experience. After four years, there will be opportunities for other jobs.
“Preference will be given to them in police and other services. The Central government will give priority to Agniveers in the CAPFs and Assam Rifles. Various state governments will give priority to Agniveers in government jobs. There will be opportunities for technical training, diploma and studies during the service, which will help Agniveers get a place in the corporate world,” it added.
Further, it added that 25 per cent Agniveers will get the opportunity of full time service with the forces. They will get Rs.11.71 lakh Seva Nidhi, which they can utilize to pursue their studies or start their business.
“Army training will make them disciplined and create awareness about health and fitness. The average age of the forces will come down to 26 from 32. The forces will get youthful zeal and youthful thinking. This will bring newness in the strength of the forces. The forces will benefit from the technical skills of the youth,” it said.
The video claimed that Agnipath scheme was a means of extending services to the country, to guide the youth, to bring changes in a village and to empower the country.
Besides, as the protests against the scheme intensified across the country, government sources came out with a fact sheet, busting all the myths surrounding the scheme.
The fact sheet basically denied that Agniveers will have an insecure future after four years of engagement with the forces. It said that those wishing to be entrepreneurs will get a financial package and bank loan scheme as well.

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