Samyukt Kisan Morcha, defense veterans, youngsters join hands against Agnipath

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The Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella organization of around 300 farmers’ associations, announced here on Saturday that it would launch joint agitations with several youth organizations and the ex-military United Front against the Agnipath programme. At a joint press conference here, the farmers’ leaders and defense veterans said that ‘Jai Jawan Jai Kisan Sammelans (meetings)’ would be held in various centers in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Bihar and Punjab between August 7 and 14.

Executives said the Agnipath program should be canceled instantly and all notices issued under it should be withdrawn. “The proven method of regular and permanent recruitment must continue,” said a joint statement issued by the SKM, the United Front Veterans and several youth organizations. Major General Satbir Singh (Retired), Group Captain VK Gandhi (Retired), Hanan Mollah, Rakesh Tikait, Yogendra Yadav, Aishee Ghosh and Manish spoke at the press conference.

They said pending vacancies (about 1.25 lakh) and current year vacancies (about 60,000) should be filled immediately after the pre-existing method of regular and permanent recruitment. “The recruitment process already underway must be supplemented by a two-year age relaxation in lieu of non-recruitment over the past two years. All charges against anti-Agnipath protesters must be dropped and the arrested youths must be released immediately. There should be no privatization in the defense sector; the government must accept its responsibility for national security and for protecting the honor and morale of the armed forces,” they said.

Leaders said the Agnipath program ended the tried and tested method of regular, permanent recruitment into the armed forces. “It would mean a drastic reduction in the size of the armed forces, from the current sanctioned strength of 14 lakh to just seven lakh. “Replacing the bulk of regular recruiting with contract Agniveers will seriously hamper the operational capability and morale of the Armed Forces at a time when external threats to national security are on the rise. The current recruitment halt is a betrayal of those aspirants who had worked there for years and were waiting for the end results of their hard work. This will mean a severe jolt for unemployed young people already facing reduced public sector job opportunities,” they added.

Farmer leaders said the process was a serious setback for farming families who had contributed to the nation by sending their young people into the armed forces. “The ‘All India Recruitment for All Classes’ will drastically reduce the share of regions like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal, Uttarakhand, Western UP and Eastern Rajasthan which have contributed to the armed forces for generations, in addition to affecting the morale of the regiments,” they said.

Through the campaign, the organizations will attempt to educate the public about the consequences of the Agnipath Diet. “If the Farm Bills were disastrous, the Agnipath program is disastrous. With our kisans and jawans in distress, the backbone of our nation is in danger of breaking. Our silence cannot be the reason the government is razing and destroying the protectors and nurturers of the nation. We stopped them once, we can stop them again,” the SKM statement read.

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