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Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt (Photo/ANI)
Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt (Photo/ANI)

Agnipath row: Everyone has right to protest but Opposition working to defame Modi govt, says MoS Defence

ANI | Updated: Jun 21, 2022 04:05 IST

New Delhi [India], June 21 (ANI): Amid the Opposition's protest against the Centre's Agnipath scheme seeking rollback of the policy, Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt on Monday said that everyone has the right to protest but the Opposition working to defame the Modi government.
Speaking to ANI, the Union Minister said, "No one can stop someone from staying modesty. In a democracy, everyone has the right to speak his mind and everyone has the right to protest. But the work that the opposition has always done is only and only to defame the government of PM Modi."
Hitting out at Congress for their 'Satyagraha', the MoS Defence said that many drastic changes have been brought in the last eight years of the Modi government that is troubling the Opposition.
Congress on Monday held a 'Satyagraha' at Jantar Mantar in the national capital against the Agnipath recruitment scheme, which was joined by top party leaders including Mallikarjun Kharge, Salman Khurshid, K Suresh, V Narayanasamy, KC Venugopal among others.
Congress functionaries were seen marching towards the Rashtrapati Bhawan from Vijay Chowk in protest against the Agnipath scheme.
They also met President Ram Nath Kovind to discuss the Agnipath scheme. They demanded the withdrawal of the scheme.
While countering the perceptions regarding the short-term recruitment of soldiers, Bhatt said that this decision has been taken to protect the country.
"Tell me if any step has not been taken in the national interest in the last eight years. Every step has been taken for the betterment of the country by the Prime Minister. This has also been taken to protect the country. Even before this, there are many such steps which have been taken in the interest of the country. Many changes were brought in the interest of the law of the country which could never have been imagined. Drastic changes brought in these eight years, which is what is troubling the Opposition because there will be a lot of trouble in their path ahead," said Bhatt.
A total of 46,000 Agniveers will be recruited this year but a top military officer said it will go up to 1.25 lakhs in near future. The entry age for all new recruits in the Armed Forces has been fixed as 17.5 to 21 years of age. However, following protests, the Central government announced an increase in the upper age limit for the recruitment of Agniveers from 21 years to 23 years for the recruitment cycle of 2022 as it has not been possible to undertake the recruitment during the last two years.
He further said that the whole country is standing with PM Modi because national interest is being taken care of step by step.
"I pray to all that one should work very thoughtfully, because this is the work of national interest. This is a golden opportunity. The government has given all the clarifications for the youth and it is also listening to the demand," he added.
After the policy, which allows Indian youths to serve in the regular cadre of the Armed Forces for a period of four years, was announced on June 14, protests erupted in various states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand and Assam. As the agitation intensified in some places, protestors went on the rampage setting trains on fire, torching vehicles and damaging both private and public properties.
While the government points out that the 'Agnipath' scheme gives a golden opportunity to the youth to join the defence system and serve the country, Congress had said the recruitment policy is controversial, carries multiple risks, subverts the long-standing traditions and ethos of the armed forces and there is no guarantee that the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country.
Agniveers will be enrolled for a service duration of 4 years including the training period. After four years, only 25 per cent of the Agniveers will be retained or re-enlisted in the regular cadre based on merit, willingness and medical fitness. These 25 per cent Agniveers will then serve for a full term of another 15 years.
Meanwhile, the registration process for the first batch of Agniveers under the Centre's new Agnipath recruitment scheme will begin on June 24 and the online examination would be held on July 24. (ANI)