Hyderabad: Congress MP & former TPCC President Capt. N. Uttam Kumar Reddy said that the Agnipath scheme introduced by the BJP Government for recruitment in the armed forces undermines national security and it is unfair and unjust to the youth of India. Therefore, he demanded that the Agnipath scheme be withdrawn immediately.
Uttam Kumar Reddy, a former fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force, was addressing the Congress Satyagraha in Jantar Mantar in Delhi to express solidarity with the students and youth protesting against the Agnipath Scheme.
Senior leaders including AICC General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi, KC Venugopal, Jairam Ramesh, Adhir Ranjan Chaudhary, Sachin Pilot, Deepender Hooda, and others participated and spoke in the Satyagraha.
“By introducing the Agnipath scheme, the BJP Govt has tried to compromise on national security. The scheme is also unfair and unjust to the lakhs of youth who were looking forward to a career of honor and dignity in the Army, Navy, and the Air Force. They are now feeling cheated,” he said.
Stating that he was an ex-serviceman himself, Uttam Kumar Reddy said that he flew the MIG-21 and MIG-23 as the fighter pilot of the Indian Air Force. “I’m deeply alarmed that the Agnipath scheme, besides being very unfair and unjust to the youth of India, undermines national security. This is undoubtedly ill-conceived and poorly planned. It lowers the morale of the armed forces. The way it is being conceived, the armed forces are not going to do well on the front as they should be,” he said.
Sharing some statistics, Uttam Kumar Reddy said that the armed forces recruit about 60,000 people annually regularly. He said there has been no recruitment in the Army, Navy, or the Air Force for the last two to two-and-a-half years. “Therefore, as against the sanctioned strength of about 13 lakh, there are nearly 1.30 vacancies in the armed forces. While the recruitment was halted for two years citing the Covid pandemic as the reason, no regular recruitment was done even this year,” he added.
He further said that the central government announced the Agnipath scheme all of a sudden with envisages only six months of training and three-and-a-half years in service.
“I spoke to many veterans and service officers. All of them are unanimous that this scheme may save the government a few crores in the pension bill, but it does not do well for the country’s security. The country is today facing a war-like situation on both fronts. For the first time after independence, both the borders are live. The Chinese are intruding into our borders and the Pakistani forces are active on the border. At this stage, the Defence Ministry tinkering with the armed forces is very unfortunate and condemnable,” he said.
The Congress MP said that not just the Agnipath scheme, but the Defense Ministry has also initiated the optimization exercise by which it wants to reduce the manpower by 15%. “Most of the veterans feel that this is not good for the armed forces and not in the interest of national security,” he said.
He said that the Congress party has organised the Satyagraha to express solidarity with the youth across the country who are protesting against the Agnipath scheme. “BJP is spreading wrong propaganda that somebody is inciting the youth for violence. The protests are spontaneous. Nobody incited the youth and all the protests have spontaneously erupted across the country as by the lakhs of youth who were looking forward to recruitment in the Army, Navy or Air Force felt cheated and disappointed,” he said.
Further, Uttam Kumar Reddy dismissed the BJP’s contention that the idea for the Agnipath scheme was borrowed from other countries. He said nowhere in the world people are recruited to the armed forces on a contractual basis.
“After six months of training and three-and-a-half years of service, 75% of youth will be discharged without a pension, without medical benefits, without canteen benefits or other facilities. As an afterthought, the centre is now announcing that the 75% ‘Aginveers’ will be absorbed in other jobs. I must tell you with my experience, this promise has already been given to the ex-servicemen of this country,” he said.
The Congress MP said that the youth wants to serve the country on a long-term and regular basis. This contractual method of induction into the armed forces is unjust for the youth and puts the country’s security in danger, he said.
“The spontaneous protest across the country shows the alarming level of unemployment in the country. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had promised 2 crore jobs every year and by now his government should’ve provided 8 crore jobs. The ongoing protests are the result of neglect of the alarming unemployment situation in India,” he said.