Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi said on Friday that the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme, which has elicited protests in several states, is not a job. "I don't see Agnipath scheme as something that provides jobs; rather it is skill development with the armed forces," the BJP leader told NDTV, hours after her house at Bettiah in West Champaran district was attacked by protesting young men. She was in Patna at the time; no one was injured in the attack.
"These kids don't understand," she said, "They must know that people start looking for jobs at 23-24 years of age, whereas we are taking in those aged 17-and-a-half years too."
#WATCH | Bihar: The residence of Deputy CM Renu Devi, in Bettiah, attacked by agitators during their protest against #AgnipathScheme— ANI (@ANI) June 17, 2022
Her son tells ANI, "Our residence in Bettiah was attacked. We suffered a lot of damage. She (Renu Devi) is in Patna." pic.twitter.com/Ow5vhQI5NQ
In Bettiah, besides Renu Devi's property, the house of state BJP chief and local MP Sanjay Jaiswal was attacked too, though he was not there and no one was injured. BJP MLA Vijay Bihari also faced an attack in the town; his vehicle was badly damaged. "The aspirants should know that violence during protests is unacceptable. It is not just about damage to private property; they are even damaging public property," Renu Devi said.
On Chief Minister Nitish Kumar's party Janata Dal (United), an ally of the BJP, calling for a "rethink" of the scheme, Renu Devi said, "People can have differing opinions. We have already said that, after four years, the 75 per cent who will be released from service under the scheme will get certificates. Those certificates will say they are trained 'Agniveers'. There is no dearth of jobs for trained people; India is a large."
She also claimed that the 'Agniveers' will get a "graduation certificate"; however, the government has so far only declared that these recruits will have lighter curriculum for a three-year bachelor's degree after their four-year contract ends.
About aspirants saying the job does not have any pension of gratuity, she said, "Only those many jobs can be given as are required for the country. Not everyone can get a job from the government. Also, this is skill training, so what's the rationale for demanding pension and gratuity? Which country pays these benefits for a four-year training period?"
She underlined that "more than Rs 11 lakh" will be given to these recruits besides "Rs 21,000 to Rs 32,000 in-hand salary".
Bihar was the first to see massive protests after the scheme was announced on June 14.
On Friday. one person died and at least 15 were injured in Telangana's Secunderabad as the violent protests spread to the southern state after entering the third consecutive day in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana. Protests have also been reported in West Bengal and Madhya Pradesh.
The protesters refuse to relent even after the government made some changes and added benefits to the scheme.
In the old system, those aged 16.5 to 21 were hired for 15 years and were entitled to pension. As per the new scheme, only up to 25 per cent of the 'Agniveers' will be retained for a 15-year regular commission after four years. This year, the scheme is meant to recruit 46,000 people.
Protesters are also unhappy with the 17.5-to-21 age restriction that made many of them ineligible. The government has since relaxed the upper age limit to 23 for this year as army recruitment rallies have not been held for the past two years citing the coronavirus pandemic.