Either withdraw Agnipath scheme or send it to parliamentary committee, Opposition tells Centre

Before the start of Monsoon Session of Parliament, the Centre and Opposition were in a huddle to discuss the Agnipath scheme on Monday. However, the Opposition camp – which plans to seek a detailed discussion on Agnipath scheme in the upcoming session – clearly kept its demand on this issue before the central government.

According to sources, in the one-and-a-half-hour long meeting with Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Opposition MPs demanded that Agnipath scheme be either withdrawn or sent to parliamentary panel for further detailed scrutiny.

As many as 12 MPs from various political parties, including four from the BJP, attended this meeting which took place in the Parliament, sources said.

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According to Opposition camp, they “strongly expressed their reservations” about Agnipath – the new military recruitment scheme.

According to sources, Rajya Sabha MP Shaktisinh Gohil said at the meeting, “If there is any big change/policy that a government introduces in a democracy, it is not done on a trial or experiment basis. Wide range consultations are held. This decision to roll out Agnipath wasn’t taken by the armed forces. There is a huge uproar against Agnipath in the country. We demand that this scheme should be withdrawn.”

According to sources, a detailed presentation was given before the committee members by Ministry of Defence officials. Apart from the defence minister and the Army chief, top officials from the Ministry of Defence and tri-services were present.

“The government wasn’t able to respond to any of our questions so six members of Opposition have written to Rajnath Singh asking him to hold wider consultations and also refer the Agnipath Scheme to Parliament’s Standing Committee for Defence,” TMC MP Saugata Roy told media persons after the meeting.

Those who signed an Opposition memorandum include Shaktisinh Gohil and Rajni Patil of Congress; Professor Saugata Roy and Sudip Bandopadhyay from TMC, Supriya Sule from NCP and AD Singh from RJD.

Interestingly, the seventh Opposition MP Manish Tewari did not sign this letter.

According to sources close to Tewari, during the question-answer session, the Congress MP from Punjab asked the maximum number of questions about the scheme.

The Tewari camp source maintained, “It was a consultative meeting. Tewari didn’t sign the Opposition letter, but he articulated his concerns and did counter question the government on issues like – operational readiness, downsizing of Army, scheme’s impact on core structure of Army etc. It was substantial deliberation on the Agnipath scheme.”

This move holds a lot of significance as the Opposition is keen to unitedly protest against the Agnipath scheme in the upcoming Monsoon session of Parliament which begins from July 18.

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