Agnipath scheme: Hear us before making decision, Centre tells SC
The central government has filed a caveat in the Supreme Court, saying the apex court "must hear its side" before making any decision on the petitions filed against its Agnipath military recruitment scheme. Till now, three petitions have already been brought before the top court challenging the Agnipath program—the Centre's short-term military recruitment plan. However, no specific plea has been mentioned in the caveat.
Why does this story matter?
- A caveat is registered to ensure the litigant isn't subjected to an adverse order without being heard.
- Meanwhile, officials claim the Agnipath scheme will allow for much-needed young recruitment in the defense forces. Armed forces' recruitment processes were suspended two years ago.
- Despite the Centre's announcement of certain amendments, the program is drawing severe criticism from some quarters, leading to violent protests across states.
Several petitions filed challenging controversial scheme
On Monday, advocate Harsh Ajay Singh filed a petition in the SC requesting the government be directed to reassess its Agnipath recruitment policy. The petition also noted that the scheme's announcement sparked protests in different regions of the country. Earlier, lawyers ML Sharma and Vishal Tiwari also filed separate petitions in the apex court opposing the scheme.
What is the basis of these petitions?
According to the petition submitted by Sharma, the government has essentially nullified the century-old recruitment process for the military services in violation of provisions of the Indian Constitution and without parliamentary approval, too. In his petition last week, Tiwari asked the Supreme Court to form a committee to investigate the scheme as well as its implications for national security and the Indian Army.
Military reforms will bring change: PM Modi on Agnipath
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a public address in Bengaluru, stated, "Many decisions, many reforms in the present may seem unpleasant. But over time, the entire country experiences its benefits. The path of reforms will take us to new milestones." He didn't, however, directly refer to the ongoing protests against the Agnipath scheme across the country, while expressing confidence over the same.
What is Agnipath scheme?
The Agnipath military recruitment scheme for armed services is aimed at reducing the wage and pension costs, per officials. Under this program, defense troops will be freed after four years. Only 25% of them may be recalled for a complete term. There will be no pension and gratuity benefits. However, a lump sum amount will be given to them upon completion of the service.
Violent protests across the country
Following the scheme's formal launch last week, there were violent protests across several states, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, and Assam. Trains and vehicles were set on fire, despite guarantees from the authorities. Several student organizations in Bihar have called for a state-wide bandh, while others observed a nationwide Bharat Bandh on Monday.
What amendments were made to scheme after launch?
Crucial amendments made to the Agnipath scheme amid protests include the extension of the upper age limit for 2022 recruitment; skill recognition from UGC; priority in giving bank loans; a 10% quota in CAPFs and Assam Rifles; and the announcement of an open-schooling certificate.
No roll-back of Agnipath, all concessions pre-planned: Defence Ministry
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence on Sunday stated that the Agnipath scheme would not be rolled back, saying that such changes had been long overdue since the armed services sought to bring in more youth and experience. It further added that the reservations for "Agniveers" announced by different ministries were pre-planned and not in response to the protests after the policy was launched.
Critics say the scheme will hit soldiers' fighting spirit
Several opposition parties and military veterans have criticized the plan, arguing that the four-year term will dampen the soldiers' fighting spirit and render them risk-averse. The Congress party is also holding a Satyagraha protest over the issue at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.