Published: 24th June 2022
Student groups continue to raise their voice against Agnipath scheme, call it "anti-youth"
The centre had introduced the scheme on June 14, which has since then seen widespread opposition from various student groups
Several student associations/groups across the country have condemned the Centre’s newly launched Agnipath scheme that aims to recruit youth from all over the country in the three wings of the Indian Armed forces, namely the Army, Navy and the Air Force. In fact, many of them have staged widespread protests claiming that the scheme, the recruitment for which begins today, June 24, will destroy permanent jobs in the armed forces.
Student activists from the All India Students’ Federation of India (AISA) protested in Delhi and demanded the rollback of the scheme on Friday, June 17. Some of them were also detained by the Delhi Police. Members of the student group said that there are multiple problems with the scheme. “The government apart from contractualising all fields, has contractualised the defence forces as well,” said Madhurima Kundu, Secretary of AISA JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University).
The scheme aims to recruit youth aged between 17 and 23 for the Armed forces on a contractual basis for a period of four years. “But, what after that?” asks Madhurima. She said that while leaders have assured the youth that they will be given jobs such as security guards in their offices, it is not what the youth want. “They are not giving them the kind of job they need and want…a regular secure job is being bypassed and the government is bringing in contractual type of jobs,” she added. This will have grave consequences on the economy as well, she said. “Because if there is a 21-year-old who knows how to use a gun and doesn’t have a job in hand, the situation is terrible to imagine,” she added.
Members of other student groups also agree that this scheme doesn’t benefit the youth. Harish Gautam from Krantikari Yuva Sanghathan (KYS) said that the scheme is aggravating the present job crisis. “People from the lower strata or working class will mainly apply for this scheme because they have expectations of job security during the current job crisis,” he said. However, the government, instead of dealing with this crisis, is only making it worse, Harish said.
Additionally, the new scheme comes at a time when there has almost been no recruitment in the Armed Forces since 2019, said the Students’ Federation of India's Hyderabad Central University (SFI HCU) unit in a statement on Twitter that condemned the scheme. “Instead of filling in the gaps through usual procedures, the government has brought in a new scheme,” they said. Until now, the practice was to recruit for a period of 15 years along with the provision of lifelong pension for veterans. But, now the Agnipath scheme contractualises labour as they are not provided with a job or pension after their tenure of four years, they said.
However, student activists also said that this is not happening only with the Armed Forces. “All sectors across the country are being contractualised, even within the bureaucracy as well. This weakens centres and institutions because they will then not have to pay for welfare,” said Madhurima.
This trend of contractualising sectors reflects the larger agenda of the government to reduce Public Sector Undertakings (PSU) in the country, said Harish. “Everything is becoming a business for them from education, hospitals, construction too and then they take their hands away from it,” he added.
When employment becomes contractual, the benefits go, they said. “The retiree benefits including pension schemes have been removed and a very large section of the employees in the organised sector including the government sector are now on contract with no gratuity benefits,” said SFI. Claiming the government’s promises of providing jobs are empty, SFI said that the scheme is anti-student and anti-youth.
Student groups such as SFI continue to fight against the scheme even as the centre begins the registration process for Agniveers.