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Defense Minister Rajnath Singh’s meeting with the army chiefs in view of the growing ruckus against ‘Agneepath’

New Delhi, June 18 (agencies) Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday held a meeting with top officials of the Army, Navy and Air Force on the overall situation arising out of the announcement of the ‘Agneepath’ scheme for recruitment in the Army. Senior BJP leader Sushil Modi also reached the meeting. Modi hails from Bihar which has emerged as the epicenter of the violent agitation against the scheme. Protests have intensified in many parts of the country regarding this plan. The meeting was attended by Chief of the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Choudhary, Chief of the Navy Admiral R Hari Kumar and Vice Chief of the Army Staff, General BS Raju. The meeting is believed to have focused on early implementation of the Agneepath plan and finding ways to pacify the protesters. Army Chief General Manoj Pandey could not attend the meeting as he is in Hyderabad on an official visit.

The Army, Navy and Air Force on Friday announced the commencement of the selection process under the new ‘format’ by next week as protests against the Agneepath Army Recruitment Scheme gathered momentum. Air Chief VR Choudhary said the selection process by the Air Force under the Agneepath scheme would begin from June 24, while the Army said it would formally start the process within two days by issuing a preliminary notification for the recruitment. The Navy, however, said it would start the recruitment process “very soon”. A senior naval commander said the notification for the recruitment would be issued within a week. Senior army officials said the three armed forces are planning to deploy the first batch of recruits in both operational and non-combatant roles under the new scheme by June next year. In an attempt to pacify the protesters, the government on Thursday night raised the upper age limit for recruiting soldiers under the scheme from 21 to 23 years for 2022. Under the Agneepath scheme, personnel in the age group of seventeen and a half years to 21 years will be recruited on a four-year contract basis, after which 75 per cent of them will be given compulsory retirement without pension. The remaining 25 per cent will be retained for regular service. These jawans will be selected on the basis of their performance.

Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday defended the plan, saying it has been implemented after extensive consultations with ex-servicemen. Singh said that “confusion” is being spread regarding the scheme due to political reasons. He said that this scheme will bring revolutionary change in the recruitment process of Armed Forces. The Defense Minister said that the scheme has been implemented after nearly two years of consultations with ex-servicemen and a decision in this regard has been taken on the basis of consensus. In his address, the Defense Minister said that the personnel to be recruited under the ‘Agneepath Scheme’ will be given priority in various jobs in state governments, private industries, public sector undertakings and paramilitary forces.

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