Congress Leaders Meet President, Seek Withdrawal of ‘Agnipath’ Scheme

The Congress pushed for wider consultations in parliament on Agnipath scheme

New Delhi:

Top Congress leaders on Monday met President Ram Nath Kovind and raised the issue of alleged ill-treatment of party MPs by police during their protest against the ED questioning of former party chief Rahul Gandhi and sought the withdrawal of the Agnipath scheme for defence recruitment.

The Congress delegation comprised Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, senior leaders P Chidambaram, Jairam Ramesh and K C Venugopal.

The Congress in its memorandum to the president said, given the situation on our borders, it is imperative that we have soldiers in our armed forces who are young, well-trained, motivated, happy, satisfied and assured of their future.

“The Agnipath scheme does not advance any of these objectives. Through you, we urge the government to withdraw the scheme, hold wider consultations in parliament, Parliamentary Committees and outside with all stakeholders and address the issues of quality, efficiency and economy without compromising on the welfare of our armed forces,” it said.

The party also wrote to the president to register its strong protest against the “vicious and unprovoked attack unleashed on Congress MPs by Delhi Police”, which comes under the direct purview of the Union home ministry.

Noting that they have met both Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman and submitted their petition, the second memorandum said, “We request you to ensure that this petition is referred to the privileges committee immediately and the Committee begins a time-bound enquiry on breach of privilege”.

Over 50 party MPs earlier held a meeting at Parliament House and took out a solidarity march from Parliament to Vijay chowk, where they were stopped by the Delhi Police.

Kharge, after the meeting, said they raised the issue of harassment of senior Congress leaders and MPs staging peaceful protests against Gandhi’s questioning by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in a “false case”.

“Our leaders were harassed and detained in police stations at far away places for 10 to 12 hours without any offence or case against them. Police have to inform the Lok Sabha speaker and Rajya Sabha chairman if MPs are detained for long hours,” he noted.

“Our rights have also been violated during our protests against ED action. Our MPs were beaten up, especially women MPs, and we brought this to the notice of the president and urged him to take action against the police personnel involved,” Kharge told reporters.

Kharge said they also raised the issue of Agnipath scheme for recruitment in armed forces and the “wrong manner” in which it has been formulated as it will not benefit the country.

“The youth will not gain from this and they will not get any employment after four years of being in the armed forces,” he said.

The government has brought this scheme without consultations with the stakeholders and the youth will suffer badly due to the scheme, he said In a series of tweets, Ramesh said they met the President, “To urge government to withdraw Agnipath scheme, hold wide consultations and address issues of quality, efficiency and economy,without compromising on welfare of Armed Forces and to register strongest possible protest against the vicious and unprovoked attack unleashed on Congress MPs by Delhi Police, which comes under the direct purview of Union Home Ministry, and ensure a time-bound enquiry by the Privileges Committee on the breach of privilege.” Chidambaram said the Agnipath scheme was “ill-conceived and misguided” and therefore, the country’s youth were on the streets protesting and revolting against it.

“The scheme is a completely ill-conceived and none of the arguments put forward are justified,” he said, adding that everyday the government comes back with some change or concession in the scheme and calls it a pre-planned change.

“It is a dangerous scheme which will reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of our armed forces. We will have a six-month trained soldier serving for 3.5 years, with a sure knowledge that after four years he will be jobless,” he said.

“What kind of soldier will he be, what kind of a commitment he will have.” The former Union minister said the Congress delegation has requested the president, as the supreme commander of the armed forces, to protect the Constitution, security and defence of the country as well as the traditions and ethos of the Army, Navy and Air Force.

We also urged him to ensure that those who join the defence forces are not left high and dry after four years, he said, adding that the issue would be raised in Parliament.

He said the party also submitted a memorandum on “excesses” on Congress leaders by police who entered the party office, pulled them out and assaulted them.

“There is absolutely no justification. We were staging a peaceful Satyagrah. We had no stones in our hands, we had no lathis, we were not indulging in stone pelting, we were simply raising slogans and showing our solidarity with our leader. MPs and others have been assaulted and manhandled,” he said, claiming that a lady MP was manhandled and her clothes were torn.

“This is a clear breach of privilege and a violation of Article 19 and Article 21 and we have asked the Rashtrapati to please cause an inquiry into this and send the matter to the privileges committee,” Chidambaram said.

The party also staged a demonstration at Jantar Mantar in support of their demands.

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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