'Agniveer' scheme a ploy to spend defence budget for benefit of corporate house: Rahul Gandhi

The Congress MP also said his party would ensure a legal guarantee for an MSP for crops if the INDIA bloc came to power after the 2024 elections

Rahul Gandhi with former Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav (far left) on the Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra in Bihar (photo: @bharatjodo/X)
Rahul Gandhi with former Bihar deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav (far left) on the Bharat Jodo Nyaya Yatra in Bihar (photo: @bharatjodo/X)


Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Friday charged the Narendra Modi government with having introduced the 'Agniveer' scheme in order to spend the defence budget for the benefit of a big business house, instead of emoluments paid to the soldiers.

Gandhi made the allegation at a Bharat Jodo Nyay Yatra (BJNY) rally in Mohania in Kaimur district of Bihar, bordering Uttar Pradesh, a region from which youth are known to enrol in the armed forces on a large scale, and which witnessed widespread protests against the Agniveer scheme two years ago.

“An Agniveer will not receive salary and pension on par with a regular army soldier, nor will he have access to the canteen," Gandhi said.

The government launched the 'Agnipath' scheme on 15 June 2022 to recruit aspirants in ‘below the officer’s rank’ cadre for the three armed services for a period of four years, as 'Agniveers'.

The former Congress president claimed, "This is because the Modi government does not want to spend the defence budget on salary and other perks of soldiers. It wants to spend the amount for the benefit of a business house."

Earlier in the day, Gandhi said his party would accept long-pending demands of farmers in the country and ensure a legal guarantee for a minimum support price (MSP) for crops if the INDIA bloc came to power after the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

Addressing the Kisan Nyay Panchayat, a gathering of farmers, in Bihar's Rohtas as part of the BJNY, he claimed that "cultivators are not getting remunerative prices for their crops".

"If the INDIA bloc comes to power after the general elections, we will provide a legal guarantee of MSP. Whenever farmers have asked for something from the Congress, it has been given to them. Be it loan waiver or MSP, we have always protected the interests of cultivators and will do so in future," Gandhi said.

His comment comes amidst the ongoing Bharat Bandh called today by the the farmers' body Samyukta Kisan Morcha (Non-Political), to press the BJP-led Central government to accept cultivators' demands, including a legal guarantee of MSP.

Farmers from Punjab began their Delhi Chalo march on 13 February, but were stopped by security personnel at the Shambhu and Khanauri border points between Delhi and Haryana. The protesting farmers have been camping at the border points ever since. Their agitation entered its fourth day on Friday.

Addressing the rally at Mohania, Gandhi also said, "If you look at the coverage in the media, you find little mention of farmers and other people and Opposition leaders like us. You will find Modi sharing space with his friends." The Congress leader also said, "Sometimes, you may also find Nitish Kumar next to the prime minister."

The remark, aimed at the Bihar chief minister who recently dumped the Opposition INDIA bloc and returned to the BJP-led NDA coalition, evoked peals of laughter from the crowd.

On the Agnipath scheme, the Congress MP accused the Union government of "transferring a considerable portion of funds of the defence budget into the pockets" of an industrialist. “The Centre’s defence budget is not for the welfare of jawans, all defence contracts are going to one corporate group only," he alleged.

"If an Agniveer is injured or martyred, they will not receive adequate compensation. Why this discrimination? Why have they created separate categories in the Army for Agniveers and others?" the Congress MP asked.

Earlier, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav joined the BJNY, which resumed from the party's district office in Sasaram this morning and is expected to enter Uttar Pradesh through Mohania in Kaimur district in the evening.

Yadav and Gandhi were seen sitting on the roof of a sports utility vehicle, and waved at enthusiastic crowds that gathered along the main road of the town. Locals queued up on both sides of the road and watched the procession. Earlier, Yadav was seen driving the SUV with Gandhi and other leaders on board.

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