Amid widespread protests against the Agnipath scheme for recruitment in defence services, the Congress on Friday demanded its immediate rollback, saying it is neither in the interest of the country nor its security.
The party's Rajya Sabha MP Deepinder Singh Hooda said the scheme should be taken back immediately and a three-year age relaxation be announced for youths who could not join the armed forces due to delays in recruitment.
Urging the protesters to be patient and not resort to violence, he asked the government to apologise to the youth of the country for bringing the new short-term recruitment scheme for the armed forces.
"The government should immediately take back the Agnipath scheme. It is neither in favour of national security nor national interests and certainly not in favour of the country's youth," he told reporters at a press conference.
"We demand an age relaxation of three years as there has been no recruitment for the last three years. Anything less than three years is not acceptable," Hooda said.
Recalling the death of over 700 farmers during the year-long farmer agitation, he flagged the alleged suicide of a Haryana youth for losing his chance to join the Army.
"Don't make the same mistake as you (government) did during the farmers' agitation which saw the death of over 700 protesting farmers," he said demanding immediate withdrawal of the Agnipath scheme.
Hooda said the Congress stands by the aspirants for jobs in the defence services and will fight for their rights and demands.
The party also demanded that the government convene either a special session of Parliament or an all-party meeting to discuss the armed forces recruitment issue and build a bipartisan consensus on the matter.
Claiming the Agnipath scheme is not suited for India, Hooda alleged the government is bringing schemes from other countries which shows that it is infatuated with western concepts.
He alleged there was a disconnect between the government policies and rural India the prime examples of which are the land acquisition act, the farm laws and now the Agnipath scheme.
Families of those who have taken the extreme step after the Agnipath scheme was announced by the government should be given compensation, Hooda demanded, adding "The government should apologise to the youth of the country."
The Congress leader from Haryana said the government has convened Parliament session from July 18 but the demand is the government should either hold a special discussion or deliberate on the matter in the Standing Committee on Defence or at an all-party meeting.
A frank debate on India's security is needed. The current recruitment policy should be discussed with experts as the youth of the country are in agony, he said.
"Please do not play politics on issues concerning the armed forces. The BJP is free to do politics on anything, but there should be no politics on the country's armed forces," he said.
"We urge the youth to be patient and not take the path of violence. We will fight their battle. The government will have to bow as it had to by taking back the farm laws," the Congress MP said.
Claiming that the new recruitment scheme would prove to be fatal for the future of the youth, Hooda asked, "What was the reason for bringing this scheme and why are we playing with the country's security, especially when it is facing onslaughts from China and Pakistan."