Tri-services rule out rollback of Agnipath

Say aspirants will have to pledge they were not a part of violence

New Delhi/Lucknow/Mumbai: With the government standing its ground on the contentious Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment in the armed forces, the three services of the military on Sunday came out with a broad schedule of enrolment under the new policy and warning those who indulged in violence and arson will not be inducted.

There was a comparative lull after the stormy protests, which rocked several states during the past four days including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana and Telangana, while peaceful agitations were held in several places.

However, the Railways, which endured the brunt of the violence, canceled 483 trains on Sunday due to the Indian protests.

As many as 35 WhatsApp groups that were allegedly spreading fake news about the scheme were banned by the government, officials said.

In a stern warning to those indulging in destructive protests over the scheme, Lt. Gen. Anil Puri, additional secretary in the Department of Military Affairs, said youth who were involved in arson and violence will not be able to join the three services, as a police verification process will be carried out before enrolling anyone. He also said the aspirants will have to pledge they were not part of protests or incidents of arson.

Meanwhile, stepping up its attack on the Centre, the Congress held a ‘Satyagraha’ in the national capital in support of those protesting the scheme, with party leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra urging the youth to recognise “fake nationalists” and ensure that a new government is formed in the country which shows “real patriotism”.

“There is no space for indiscipline in the armed forces. There is no space for arson and violence. All those who want to become a part of the armed forces under the Agnipath scheme will have to give a certificate that they were not part of any arson,” Puri told a press conference addressed by top military officials.

ing to a question on whether the responding government proposed to review or roll back the scheme because of the protests, Lt. Gen. Puri shot back, “No, why should there be a rollback?” The top military officer also said an Agnifer will get a compensation of Rs 1 crore if he sacrifices his life in service of the nation.

The tri-services media briefing at the Defense Ministry took place hours after Defense Minister Rajnath Singh held a meeting with the chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force on Sunday for the second straight day.

lt. Gen. Puri said the major reform in the armed forces to bring down the age profile was introduced after years of deliberations and studying the recruitment process and tenure of soldiers in several countries. He added that even a high-level committee on the 1999 Kargil War had made suggestions on it.

Giving details of the Navy’s plan to induct Agniveers, Vice Admiral (Personnel) Dinesh Tripathi said the naval headquarters will come out with a broad guideline for the recruitment by June 25. The first batch of recruits will join the training program on INS Chilka in Odisha by November 21, he said, adding the Navy is recruiting both men and women as Agniveers under the scheme.

About the Indian Air Force’s plan for induction under the Agnipath scheme, Air Marshall SK Jha said the registration process will start on June 24 and the process for online examination for phase one of the recruitment process will begin on July 24. “We are planning to start the training for the first batch of recruits by December 30,” Air Marshall Jha said.

About the Army’s recruitment plan, Lt. Gen. Bansi Ponappa said the Army will issue a draft notification on Monday and subsequent notifications will be issued by various recruitment units of the force from July 1 onwards. Recruitment rallies under the Agnipath scheme will take place across India in August, September and October, he said.

lt. Gen. Ponappa said the first batch comprising 25,000 personnel will join the training program in the first and second week of December. The second lot of recruits will join their training around February 23. He said a total of 83 recruitment rallies will be organized across the country to select around 40,000 personnel.

Referring to the provision of exit of 75% of the Agnivers after a four-year tenure, Lt. Gen. Puri said around 17,600 personnel take premature retirement annually from the three services. “It is not that exit will take place only under Agnipath scheme,” he said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has maintained silence on the violent protests, suggestedively said, “It is our country’s misfortune that many good things brought with good intentions get trapped in political colours. Media also gets dragged into it due to its TRP compulsions.” He, however, made no direct reference to the agitation against Agnipath.

Modi was speaking after inaugurating the main tunnel and five underpasses of the Pragati Maidan Integrated Transit Corridor in the national capital.

The Uttar Pradesh police, meanwhile, arrested nine people and detained many violent ones in Saharanpur, Bhadohi and Deoria districts for their alleged involvement in agitations and for instigating the youth, officials said. In Bhadohi, police baton-charged protestors and arrested four people.

In Deoria, protestors threw stones and vandalised a gas filling station on the Paina road. The filling station salesman has accused the protestors of looting cash. Shopkeepers at Chowk and Paina road closed their shops out of fear and people who came to the market returned home.

At least 14 people were detained in Gujarat’s Ahmedabad city after they assembled without permission to protest, police said.

The states that had witnessed large-scale violence and arson remained largely peaceful.

As many as 46 people have been arrested in connection with the arson and violence at the Secunderabad railway station on June 17 for protesting against the Agnipath scheme, said a senior official of the Government Railway Police (GRP) here on Sunday. The protestors were allegedly provoked by some of the army recruitment coaching academics for the violence, said Anuradha, Superintendent of Police (GRP).

There is a major conspiracy by army recruitment coaching academics, Anuradha said. Investigation is on to find out the real conspirators, instigators and defense academy owners, the police official said.

Asked about an ex-Army man, now running an academy, training aspiring recruits and was apprehended on Saturday by the Andhra Pradesh police for allegedly being the mastermind of the violence, the police official said, “We are inquiring…Details are awaited. Once his role is established, he will be arrested.”

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