Aam Aadmi Party Rajya Sabha MP Raghav Chadha on Saturday urged Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to "immediately" roll back the Agnipath scheme and resume the regular process of recruitment for defence services for the current year, saying the new recruitment plan has "justifiably" caused "great anguish" among the potential recruits across the country.
In a letter to the Defence Minister, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader listed a host of deficiencies in the Agnipath scheme and said it negates "regimental honour" and "erodes the quality of our troops".
"Unity and coordination amongst troops is what drives our armed forces towards excellence, and with a shorter duration spent with their peers, we are sacrificing the spirit of the forces," he said.
It is the ethos of the regiment that keep jawans united and determined, he said, adding, "Any recruitment scheme must respect the regimental honour and ethos built into the system which has been bringing laurels to the country.”
Chadha said the Union government, while formulating the Agnipath scheme, "failed" to comprehend that a jawan supports not only himself but his family as well.
"Only individuals with courage and peace of mind can serve the armed forces. A jawan that is busy contemplating career moves or wondering how his family will survive after his tenure of four years is over, will find it harder to serve our country," he said.
An "ill-motivated soldier" is certainly an avoidable proposition, he added. The AAP MP said the new recruitment scheme has "overlooked" the issues of inadequate skilling.
"The Agnipath scheme allows for Agniveers to undergo a crash course in training of six months. An abnormally short period of training will have adverse consequences on the quality of service discharged," he contended.
He said the scheme allows for greenhorns to face the nation's greatest security challenges. "Resultantly, we will be saddled without sufficient leadership and experience amongst the troops," he added.
Chadha said the Union government's financial obligations towards the defence pension bill should not be offset by sacrificing the job security of the jawans.
"We cannot shy away from our collective responsibility to give those who protect our borders a life of dignity. It is the least we can do for our jawans. This cannot be our solution to budgetary woes," he said, adding, "Lives cannot be put at stake to balance the budget."
Noting that the scheme has been brought in without first implementing it as a pilot, the AAP MP said such "experiments" should not be imposed "en masse".
"Pilot schemes, preferably outside of the armed forces, would have provided an opportunity to deliberate before deciding," he argued.
A consultative exercise could have followed thereafter to avoid "national embarrassment" and despair amongst the youth, he added.
AAP MP said the Union government should start with "an immediate" rollback, and a resumption of the regular recruitment process for the current year, taking note of the points that he has raised.
"With all humility at my command, I implore you to roll back the Agnipath scheme, to stop this 'trial by fire' of the youth of the country," Chadha said in his letter to the Defence Minister.
The rollback of the scheme should give the Union government "sufficient time" to rethink and consult the aspirants "who are affected the most by this sudden decision", he said.
"We are experiencing a great deficit in new recruits, and shortcuts that put our jawans at risk cannot be the solution. We cannot make the opportunity to serve the country in the armed forces a secondary option for anyone," the AAP leader added.