Agnipath Scheme: The issue can potentially turn into the latest conflict between the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in the state and the BJP-ruled centre.
Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann has asked district authorities to provide full support for ‘Agnipath’ recruitment rallies after the Army flagged “vacillating” support from local administration.
Here are top 10 facts from this big story:
- Chief Minister Mann directed all deputy commissioners to provide complete support to Army Authorities for holding the rallies to recruit soldiers. “Any laxity shall be viewed seriously. Every effort will be made to recruit maximum number of candidates in to army from the state,” he added.
- This came after Major General Sharad Bikram Singh, the Army’s zonal recruitment officer in Jalandhar, wrote to Punjab Chief Secretary VK Janjua and Kumar Rahul, Principal Secretary, Employment Generation, Skill Development and Training, on the issue.
- In the letter dated September 8, Major General Singh has said they are not receiving adequate support from the local administration in organising the rallies. “They are usually citing their inadequacies due to lack of directions from state government at Chandigarh or lack of funds,” he has said.
- Listing the requirements for conducting such rallies, the officer has said that police assistance, medical support and arrangements for food, water and toilets need to be in place.
- The letter also pointed out that the administrative and financial support provided by other states is “praise worthy”. The officer said he was also sending some pictures of the arrangements in other states.
- The officer further wrote that unless they receive “clear cut commitment” from the government’s side, “we would be taking up case with Army headquarters to hold in abeyance all future recruitment rallies and procedures in the State of Punjab, alternately conduct rallies in neighbouring states”.
- Army sources later clarified that rallies in Ludhiana and Gurdaspur were conducted with full support of civil administration. The sources reiterated that there is “no plan to shift” recruitment rallies from Punjab to any other state.
- The centre unveiled the Agnipath recruitment in June this year. Under the scheme, soldiers will be recruited for a period of four years. After four years, about 25 per cent of the soldiers, known as ‘Agniveers’, will be retained in the forces.
- The others will retire with a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package that is tax-free. The Ministry of Defence has clarified that they will not be entitled to gratuity or pension benefits.
- The launch of the scheme had sparked widespread protests across the country, with the protesters questioning what options they would have after their four-year tenure in the forces. Critics had argued that a four-year tenure would make soldiers risk-averse.
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