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Lok Sabha Elections 2024: BJP's allies offer 'unconditional support' but wants review of Agniveer scheme

Tyagi said the JD(U) was not opposed to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) but all stakeholders should be consulted on it.
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 10:30 IST
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 10:30 IST
alyan Ray
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 10:30 IST
Last Updated : 06 June 2024, 10:30 IST

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New Delhi; A controversial scheme for short-term recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces may be up for review in Modi 3.0 as BJP’s new coalition partners on Thursday demanded re-examination of the Agniveer scheme, introduced by the Narendra Modi-led government two years ago.

“There has been resentment among the voters on the Agniveer scheme. Our party wants a review and improvement of the scheme on parameters on which questions have been raised,” KC Tyagi, a senior JD(U) leader and close aide of Bihar Chief Minister and JD(U) supremo Nitish Kumar said here.

Lok Janshakti Party (Ram Vilas) leader Chirag Paswan too called for a second look of the programme arguing the scheme was related to the youth of the country.

In the new NDA coalition, BJP doesn’t enjoy absolute majority in the Lok Sabha and will have to rely on several coalition partners including JD (U) with 12 seats and LJP (Ram Vilas) with five seats for the government’s survival.

Tyagi pointed out that JD(U) was not opposing the scheme but seeking a review, while Chirag maintained that he was not in a hurry with the demand and a re-look should be carried out once the new government has settled.

In June 2022, the BJP-led central government announced closing the legacy recruitment routes in the armed forces and introduced the Agnipath scheme to recruit regular soldiers in the army, air force and navy for four years. The soldiers recruited under this scheme are called Agniveers.

At the end of the fourth year, 75% of the Agniveers are to be released with a financial package worth nearly Rs 12 lakh while 25% will be absorbed in the regular service. All the three services currently recruit through this scheme only.

By now over 50,000 men and women are estimated to have joined the service through the Agniveer scheme, but popular sentiment against the scheme runs high in states like Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan that supply a large number of soldiers.

Notwithstanding the murmurs within the armed forces, the three services went ahead with the new recruitment scheme.

But the cat was let out of the bag by the former Indian Army Chief Gen M M Naravane, who in his autobiography wrote that the scheme from the Prime Minister’s Office came as a “surprise” to the army and as a “bolt from the blue” to the navy and air force.

“We in the army were taken by surprise by this turn of events, but for the navy and air force, it came like a bolt from the blue,” General Naravane wrote in the book, a section of which was released by PTI earlier this year.

Following the PTI news report, the Union government began reviewing the manuscript, leading to suspension of the publication of the book so far.

Gen Naravane wrote he had to explain to the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force chiefs that his initial proposal was only regarding the army and he was of the view that 75% of the personnel recruited would be retained, while 25% should be released. The aim was to gradually reduce the burgeoning salary and pension bill of the army.

Tyagi said the JD(U) was not opposed to the Uniform Civil Code (UCC) but all stakeholders should be consulted on it. Asked if his party will push for a caste census, he said, "No party in the country has denied a caste census. Bihar has shown the way, the prime minister also did not oppose... It is the demand of the time, and we will pursue it."

He also laid out another demand from his party for the alliance -- special status for Bihar, a demand that has also been echoed by the other key NDA ally Telugu Desam Party for Andhra Pradesh. “There is no pre-condition; we have given unconditional support. Just that Bihar be given the special status ...this is something which we have in our heart,” Tyagi said.

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Published 06 June 2024, 10:30 IST

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