Union minister Anurag Thakur on Saturday appealed to people protesting against the Agnipath scheme to leave violence and use platforms such as media or their public representatives to convey their grievances, asserting violence would not take them anywhere and that the government is ready deliberate with an "open mind" and make changes "if required".
Hailing the Agnipath scheme as "historic", Thakur said the youth wanting to join the military would never take the path of the violence. He alled they were being "provoked" by some political parties which keep looking of every opportunity under an agenda to block any change taking place.
He further said, "I would like to appeal to the country's youth that path of violence would not take you anywhere. In a democracy, you have right to protest but not by setting government property on fire. Violence has no place in a democracy. If you have any better suggestion, you can place your views at your platform, media in a democracy or tell us. Government is always ready to consider with an open mind."
Speaking at a conclave organised by the TV9 media group, Thakur also urged the political parties not to "provoke" the youth and asked them to express their views on the issue in their respective "platforms or media".
अनुराग ठाकुर ने अग्निपथ योजना को लेकर मचे बवाल पर कहा कि युवाओं से अपील है कि हिंसा न करें और बहकावे में न आएं, अगर सरकार अपनी बात समझाने में विफल रही है तो वो आगे समझाएगी।#WATCH:https://t.co/pJJ3v8Np5y#WhatIndiaThinksToday #TV9GlobalSummit #Agnipath @ianuragthakur pic.twitter.com/nab5rN0KTx— TV9 Uttar Pradesh (@TV9UttarPradesh) June 18, 2022
Thakur suggested the protesting youths can come for talks with the central government raising their grievance through governors, chief ministers, or through their elected representatives, and Union ministers.
He said, "Whatever your views are, you can express and share on social media. You [can] express your views on what are the changes that you want. But, don't indulge in violence."
Thakur said the government's approach on the issue is that it is ready to think with an open mind and make amendments in the scheme, if required, in the interest of the youth and the country.
He said, "Then, talks are very good medium. Some or other solution will come out, not by violence but through talks. We have brought this scheme in the interest of the country's youth."
Defending the Agnipath scheme, Thakur said anyone willing to join the force under the new scheme will have in his bank account "at least Rs 25 lakh of his salary besides Rs 11 lakh to be given on completion of four years of service".
He said, "If he is class 10 passed, he will get class 12 passed certificate. Those joining with 12 certificate will be able to pursue his graduation with the provisions that have been made."
Those joining the armed forces under the scheme can start a new life with the "varying skills" they will acquire during four years of their service in the armed forces.
While the 25 per cent of all those to be recruited under the scheme will continue to serve the armed forces, remaining 75 per cent of the recruits will have "many opportunities" after completion of the four years of their service.
He said, "The country's corporate world have said they are ready to hire them on priority. This is a very big step that corporate world has taken. Besides, various departments of the central government have also talked about giving them priority in hirings."
Thakur said his Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry is also "seriously" considering to come up with a short-term course for such youth to enable them get job of trainers in sports sector or physical teachers in schools and colleges.
He said, "When they are so fit that they can join the Army, many of them would be associated with sports as well. We can offer them some five-six month course that can make them eligible for physical training teachers or trainers in sports. We are thinking about it very seriously."
Thakur's comments have come at a time when violent protesters are going on across the country against Agnipath policy of recruiting soldiers, which have ranged from burning trains, vandalism of public property to stone pelting and attacks on police personnel.
The government has also started to make amends, announcing on Thursday that age limit for the year 2022 would be 23 instead of 21 for Agnipath applicants.
On Saturday, Defence and Union Home ministeries announced reservations for Agnipath soldiers released after four years for jobs in their ministries.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said 10 per cent of vacancies in Defence Ministry would be reserved for Agniveers.
"The 10% reservation will be implemented in the Indian Coast Guard and defence civilian posts, and all the 16 Defence Public Sector Undertakings. This reservation would be in addition to existing reservation for ex-servicemen," said Singh's office in a tweet.
The Union Home Ministry announced that 10 per cent jobs would be reserved for Agniveers in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles. It also announced age-relaxations.
Union Home Minister's Office said, "The MHA also decides to give three years age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit to Agniveers for recruitment in CAPFs and Assam Rifles. Further, for the first batch of Agniveer, the age relaxation will be for five years beyond the prescribed upper age limit."
(With PTI inputs)