In Letter To President Droupadi Murmu, Rahul Gandhi Seeks Justice For Agniveers

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi told President Droupadi Murmu that there is "discrimination" in the nature and extent of benefits given to the families of agniveers who were killed in action.

In Letter To President Droupadi Murmu, Rahul Gandhi Seeks Justice For Agniveers

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New Delhi:

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Saturday wrote to President Droupadi Murmu against the Agnipath scheme, alleging there is "discrimination" in the nature and extent of benefits given to the families of the soldiers killed in action.

Mr Gandhi said though it is a policy matter that falls in the domain of an elected government, an "exception is warranted in this case" as she is the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces and the issue affects national security.

In his two-page letter to the President of India, Mr Gandhi said he is writing to her with an appeal to provide 'nyya' (justice) to Agniveers, who lay down their lives in service to the nation.

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"There can be no clearer illustration of the fundamental flaw in the Agnipath scheme - the creation of a 'lesser' cadre of soldiers who are expected to work on similar tasks with lower pay, benefits and prospects," he said while sharing his letter to President Murmu on the scheme.

Mr Gandhi also referred to his recent meeting with the family of an Agniveer Ajay Kumar (23) in Ramgarh Sardaran village in Punjab, who gave the supreme sacrifice this January in a landmine blast near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district.

He said like every Indian, he was heartbroken by his martyrdom as Ajay's promising life was tragically cut short at such a young age. He said he was also shocked to find his family living in abject poverty.

"Despite losing their son, they were proud of his sacrifice in service to the nation. However, they also described the shocking apathy and insensitivity displayed by the government in the aftermath of his death.

"Ajay's family has received none of the lifetime benefits or social security that the families of regular soldiers receive. This means they will not get a pension, medical facilities, assistance for education, or preference in employment," he said.

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Mr Gandhi also said that despite Ajay's dream to serve his country, his hard work and the highest sacrifice, his family is denied the respect and recognition that other soldiers get, only because he is an Agniveer.

"The tragic situation faced by Ajay's family is the same injustice that thousands of Agniveers face today, and lakhs more will face in the future," he said.

Poor families like Ajay's are left with little respite despite their children's ultimate sacrifice, he said.

"The discrimination in the nature and extent of benefits accorded to the families of our slain Agniveers, compared to regular soldiers warrants your urgent attention," Mr Gandhi said in his letter.

"This anyaay - injustice - is why the Congress Party and our INDIA allies have strongly opposed the Agnipath scheme, and have promised to repeal it if we form the government," the former Congress chief said.

In the letter, Mr Gandhi said, "I request you to intervene. I recognise that a President does not generally interfere in matters of policy, which are the domain of the elected government.

"However, I believe an exception is warranted in this case, given both the seriousness of this issue, and your unique position.

"You are the Supreme Commander of India's Armed Forces. You have taken an oath to devote yourself to the well-being of the people of India." "Is this discrimination against our Agniveer martyrs not a risk to our national security? Is it not a grave injustice to our youth who bravely risk their lives to serve?" Mr Gandhi asked in his letter.

"Do we not owe a duty to ensure the well-being of Ajay's parents, his sisters, and other families like theirs," he also asked.

"These pressing questions can only be answered in the affirmative.

"Therefore, I appeal to you to use your distinguished office to do nyaay - justice to Agniveer soldiers who lay down their lives, by ensuring that they receive the same benefits as any soldier who makes the highest sacrifice for our motherland," he said. 

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)