New Delhi: Opposition members on Friday walked out in protest from a meeting of the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, alleging they were not allowed to discuss the Agnipath scheme.
Members of Congress and BSP urged committee chairman Jual Oram to allow a discussion on the Agnipath scheme, arguing it has huge implications and required parliamentary scrutiny but were denied the permission.
Congress MPs K C Venugopal and Uttam Kumar Reddy, besides BSP’s Danish Ali, who are members of the panel, argued with the chairman that the Agnipath scheme has already been discussed in the Consultative Committee on Defence and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and the three service chiefs have made a presentation before it.
The members are learnt to have contended that not allowing a discussion on Agnipath amounted to an insult to Parliament and that not informing the committee about the scheme is a breach of privilege.
The leaders also urged him to list the issue for discussion in the next meeting, but the chairman denied permission, to which Oram is learnt to have said that the agenda of issues to be discussed at the committee meetings is decided in advance at the beginning of the year and hence this request cannot be entertained now.
The Chairman, sources said, also told the opposition members that they could raise this in Parliament and discuss it there but did not allow the scheme to be discussed in the Committee.
Venugopal later took to Twitter to say that members Uttam Kumar Reddy, Danish Ali and himself walked out in protest from today’s meeting of Parliament Standing Committee on Defence “for not taking up the controversial Agnipath Scheme despite our repeated requests and my earlier letter addressed to the Chairman requesting the same”.
“We urged the Chairman to clarify; Why the Parliament Standing Committee on Defence was kept in dark on the Agnipath Recruitment Scheme? Why the Scheme was not taken up in the committee’s budget scrutiny meetings despite involving financial implications?
“The Chairman turned a deaf ear to these crucial questions and the scheme was not discussed. No discussion in Parliament, no deliberations in the Parliament Standing Committees, thus goes the way of bulldozing legislations in the Modi era,” he tweeted.
Sources said the opposition members also highlighted that the Agnipath scheme was the biggest change in the armed forces since independence and needed to be discussed in the Parliamentary Committee on Defence, where government actions are scrutinised.
They also claimed that they have raised the issue in the meetings of the business advisory committees of both houses, but the government is not ready to discuss the issue.
Sources said the opposition MPs asked “what the government was trying to hide and what is this secret about the Agnipath scheme”, claiming further that the manpower strength of the armed forces is being changed through the Agnipath scheme.
After almost half an hour of discussion in the panel meeting, the three opposition members staged a walkout in protest.
Issues concerning ordnance factory boards and DRDO had been listed for discussion at the meeting.