As young men take to the streets protesting against the Agnipath recruitment scheme, Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari said that he had not anticipated such a violent backlash. He also warned defence job aspirants participating in the stir that they may have to pay a high price at a later date.
“We condemn this kind of violence. This is not the solution. The last step is police verification: if anyone is involved, they won’t get a clearance from police,” Chief of Air Staff (CAS) Air Chief Marshal V R Chaudhari told India Today.
Hailing the Agnipath scheme as a positive step, Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari said those who have concerns about the program can get in touch with nearby military stations, air force or naval bases and get their doubts clarified.
“What they need to do now is to get hold of the correct information, understand the scheme in its entirety. They will themselves see the advantage and benefits of the scheme. I am sure this will quell all their doubts, whatever they have in their minds,” he added.
The CAS explained that the Agnipath short-term recruitment scheme had been in the making for the last two years and aims to reduce the age profile of the armed forces from 30 to 25 years.
Those who are discharged after the four-year tenure will not only have served the nation, but will “go back as disciplined, motivated and imbibe ethos of the services”, he said.
CAS Chaudhari said the government and the defence establishment is doing its best to address concerns and dispel fears of job seekers, especially with regards to their insecurity about the future.
However, he also hinted that withdrawing the scheme is not on the cards, without directly saying so. “We will see if changes are needed after it is fully implemented, or if improvement is required,” he added.
On Friday, the Chief of Air Staff announced that the selection process by the Indian Air Force for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme will start from June 24. Welcoming the raising of the upper age limit to 23 for induction under the scheme for this year, he said the move would permit a larger section of youngsters to enrol under the new model of recruitment.
Unveiling the Agnipath scheme on Tuesday, the government said youths between the ages of 17 and-a-half and 21 years would be inducted for a four-year tenure while 25 per cent of them will be subsequently inducted for regular service.
Those protesting against the scheme are demanding a rollback as they are unhappy with the length of service, no pension provisions for those released early and the 17.5 to 21-year age restriction that now makes many of them ineligible.