There is a storm-like situation in several parts of the country following violent protests against the proposed Agnipath scheme which promises to recruit youths between 17.5 years and 21 years of age in the Indian Army for a period of four years. The angry protestors have set several trains afire and damaged a large amount of government property. The storm isn’t over yet, though the age limit has been increased to 23 years now.
However, I wonder why such violent protests are taking place? Sadly, it is being opposed by those who have the passion to join the Army! How can such violent protests be expected from the youths who dream to serve the country through Army? The Army is known for its discipline and the whole nation looks up to it with respect. Whenever I meet any soldier during my journey, I bow down in respect for his service to the country, his dedication and his passion. There can be no scope for indiscipline in such an organisation.
The youths who consider Army as a medium of employment are fundamentally wrong. India’s first Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat had said very clearly that the Army is not an avenue for employment. I am quoting him here in a nutshell: “It has often been seen that people consider Indian Army as a means of employment. I would like to tell you that please remove this misconception from your mind. If you want to join the Indian Army, your spirit should be high. You should have the ability to find the way where there is no way out. Often many young people come to me saying, ‘Sir, I want a job in the Indian Army.’ I tell them clearly that Indian Army is not a means of employment. If you want to get a job, go to railways or somewhere else. There are many other ways of earning a livelihood like starting your own small business.”
I completely agree with General Bipin Rawat that the Army is a medium of service to the country. That’s why the Army gets so much respect. Many accidents happen in the country and people are killed but none of them get the respect that a martyred soldier gets. His body is brought by aircraft. The whole village comes together to pay the last respect and the Armed Forces offer ceremonial salute.
Everyone has the right to protest in a democracy, but who has given this right to resort to arson and violence. How can the protestors beat up the passengers on board the trains, burn buses and pelt stones! After all, with whose money was the train built? These services come into existence from the tax we pay to the government. Therefore, government property means the property of the common man whose money and skill have built it. History bears eloquent testimony to the fact that nothing can be achieved using violence. We are citizens of the country where Lord Mahavir and Gautam Buddha were born. They gave the message of peace and non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi exhibited to the world the power of non-violence. The twin weapons of non-violence and peaceful protest forced the mighty British Empire, over which the Sun never set, to leave India. The Mahatma not only liberated India by following the path of non-violence, but also helped liberate more than 40 countries in Africa and elsewhere. Barack Obama had said in the Central Hall of the Indian Parliament that if Gandhiji had not taken birth, he might never have become the President of America. Considering the Mahatma’s legacy of peace and non-violence, is there any need for using violence at all?
Only time will tell us how relevant the Agnipath scheme will prove to be or how the Army will benefit from Agniveers. Some experts are calling it a revolutionary plan. In Israel, Singapore and Britain, after the 12th standard, every boy or girl has to serve in the army for some time. In Britain, even the son of the King or Queen has to spend the prescribed time in the army. However, some experts are expressing apprehensions over the Agnipath scheme too. But one thing is quite clear that before announcing the scheme, the government should have prepared the ground well. A public opinion should have been created. Some people may ask: when the maximum age for this scheme was 21 years, why was it increased to 23 years after the protests? Why did the government offer an insurance cover of Rs 1 crore and all facilities like regular servicemen? In fact, lack of preparation creates problems. The scheme to make filing of Income Tax returns faceless is an example. Many cases are still unresolved and the controversy continues. It is natural that if people are convinced that any scheme is beneficial, there will be no opposition. Our Prime Minister Narendra Modi, home minister Amit Shah or defence minister Rajnath Singh must have taken such a major decision only with some positive thinking. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the officials concerned to properly convey to the people the government’s plan for the future. However, officials make mistakes and a wrong message is sent about the people’s representatives. I would also like to say that whenever the government takes such important decisions, it should also take the Opposition into confidence. In fact, this has been the convention in our country.
The most important thing is that no political party should either spark a violent protest about any scheme or take advantage of the fluid situation by fuelling unrest. I am aware that unemployment is the most pressing problem in the country and it is very easy to instigate or mislead the youths on this issue. Efforts should be made to generate so many means of livelihood that the youths do not see any government scheme as a loss of opportunity for themselves.
The government alone cannot provide jobs. Only industry can do this work with more efficiency. If the government promotes industries, the scenario can change. The Prime Minister has announced to provide 10 lakh job opportunities in the next one and a half years. If the officials concerned really succeed in realising this plan, it will instill a great amount of confidence among the youths. The officials though did not fulfil several earlier announcements, let’s hope for the better this time!
The author is the chairman, Editorial Board of Lokmat Media and former member of Rajya Sabha.
Everyone has the right to protest in a democracy, but who has given this right to resort to arson and violence? How can the protesters beat up passengers on board the trains, burn buses and pelt stones! After all, with whose money was the train built? These services come into existence from the tax we pay to the government. Therefore, government property means the property of the common man whose money and skill have built it. History bears eloquent testimony to the fact that nothing can be achieved using violence. We are citizens of the country where Lord Mahavir and Gautam Buddha were born. They gave the message of peace and non-violence. Mahatma Gandhi exhibited to the world the power of non-violence.