Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- amid countrywide protests and severe opposition criticism over the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme -- today said some decisions "may look unfair" at first, but will help in nation-building later. "Several decisions look unfair at present. In time, those decisions will help in building the nation," PM Modi said at a public address in Bengaluru, but without making any mention of the scheme.
Several opposition parties, including the Congress, have dubbed "Agnipath" the latest blunder of the government, part of a series that includes demonetisation and the farm laws. Many of the critics have predicted a rollback.
The government, however, is standing firm. The military has declared that this was a long-awaited change in tune with the global trend that is increasingly focussed on the use of cutting-edge technology in warfare and a younger age profile for soldiers that's more in tune with it.
The terms of the Agnipath scheme -- recruitment between the ages of 17.5 and 21 years and mandatory retirement for most after four years without any gratuity or pension -- however, has generated fury in the backdrop of largescale unemployment and economic depression.
The government's offer of several avenues of employment for "Agniveers" -- including in police, paramilitary forces, home and defence ministries -- has failed to mollify protesters who have been on the warpath since the June 14 announcement.
Today, several organisations called for an all-India strike during which more than 500 trains were cancelled by the railways, which has suffered major loss of property due to arson and vandalism by the protesters.
On Sunday, the tri-services came up with a broad schedule of enrolment and the Army today issued a notification for induction of soldiers under the scheme. The process will begin in July.