Dr Vedapratap Vaidik
A day before I had written in my regular column that the agitation against Agnipath recruitment scheme was likely to turn more aggressive compared to many previous protests. As I apprehended, the agitation has spread across the country. In the beginning the agitation was limited to certain cities in North India and the agitating youths in certain places reportedly inflicted damages to public property. But now protest has intensified manifold and I have never seen in my lifetime such a large scale violent agitation engulfing the entire country.
Dozens of passenger trains, railway stations and petrol pumps were torched, markets were looted, private cars, transport buses and other vehicles were set on fire. Even houses and government offices were attacked by the agitating mob.
Fortunately, the police force has not yet resorted to firing, but in the event of the situation going out of control and police not able to contain the violence then the administration would be compelled to seek the service of our armed forces. If the agitation turns extremely violent and destructive then there is an unlikely possibility the government will lose its cool and react harshly against the protesters like China’s Tiananmen Square Square incident in which thousands of protesting students were massacred by the State security forces. But I am more than sure that the Modi government will never think of any such barbaric step to quell the protest.
I have already said that this protest was spontaneous and has hardly any leader. The protest was never engineered by any external forces or sponsored by anyone. Of course, as usual, to garner political mileage many opposition parties have pledged their support. The opposition sees an opportunity in this agitation to embarrass the Modi government.
To mollify the agitators and douse the agitation the government has announced many new concessions which are reasonably fine. Union Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s attitude is very positive and BJP leader Kailash Vijayvargiya has even said that he will give first preference to the retired Agniveer soldiers for any vacancy in the BJP Head office in Delhi
I firmly feel, it will be much easier for those soldiers with four years of military experience to find suitable employment. Apart from this, the goal of this Agnipath scheme is to make the Indian Army modern with more dexterity and also save the huge amount of money spent on pensions so that the same could be used to purchase modern weapons.
More or less the same system is being implemented in America, Israel and many other powerful countries, but it has become a permanent weakness of the Modi government that schemes are introduced without considering the possible public response. The same mistake was made while introducing the Land Acquisition Ordinance, and also in the case of Citizenship Act and it is repeated now in Agnipath! The government is now intensely engaged in firefighting to douse the fire stocked by the new recruitment scheme-Agnipath.
It seems, the assortment of largesse and concessions the government has announced for the Agniveer, has not convinced the agitating youths. As it appears now, the protest is likely to continue. But it is very sad that today we are witnessing gross indiscipline and anarchy in the behaviour of youths who want long term employment in the army. Can we expect these indiscipline agitators who are engaged in arson and violence bring any name or fame to the Army and our nation? The truth is that both the government and the agitating youths are not acting from within their limits and this will prove detrimental to the interest of the nation.
*Dr. Vaidik is a widely travelled scholar-journalist. He has visited more than 80 countries on diplomatic and educational missions. Dr. Vaidik has won more than a dozen National and International awards for academic and journalistic excellence. He has been a member of several Advisory Committees of Government of India.