After protest in various states over the new recruitment scheme of the government for defence forces 'Agnipath', the Congress on Thursday demanded that it should be kept in abeyance.
The party said the scheme 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.
Addressing a press conference, P. Chidambaram and Sachin Pilot said that retired defence officers have opposed the scheme and believe that many serving officers share the same reservations about it.
The Congress said, "given the situation on our borders, it is imperative that we have soldiers in our defence forces who are young, well-trained, motivated, happy, satisfied and assured of their future. The Agnipath scheme does not advance any of these objectives."
It is our duty to warn the country of the consequences of a hastily drawn up scheme. "We would urge the government to keep the Agnipath scheme in abeyance, hold wide consultations with serving and retired officers, and address the issues of quality, efficiency and economy without compromising on any of the three considerations," it added.
The party said that its concern is that the Agnipath soldier will be trained for six months and will serve for another 42 months when 75 per cent of the recruits will be discharged.
"It appears to us that the scheme makes a mockery of training; inducts into the defence forces an ill-trained and ill-motivated soldier; and discharges a disappointed and unhappy ex-soldier into the society," it added further.
The party said that the age of recruitment -- 17 to 21 years, raises numerous questions. A large part of our youth will be totally excluded from serving in the defence forces.
"The stated objective of savings on the pension bill is a weak argument and has not been established beyond doubt. On the other hand, the short period of training (6 months) and the unusually short period of service (42 months) may have negative consequences on quality, efficiency and effectiveness. We fear that the scheme may turn out to be a case of 'penny wise and security foolish'," Chidambaram said.
The party alleged that announcements by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Education on post-discharge opportunities appear to be after-thoughts. They show that the scheme was poorly conceived and hastily drawn up. A major change in the mode of recruitment should have been examined thoroughly and a pilot scheme should have been tried and tested. Nothing of that sort has been done.
Several experts have suggested alternative models to address the issues of inadequate recruitment to the defence forces. There is no indication that the alternatives were examined, the Congress party said.