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Agnipath: Army Claims Lack of Support From Punjab Admin; CM Mann Gives Assurance

AAP chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal also said that the Punjab government would extend full support to the scheme.

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Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann on Wednesday, 14 September, asked district authorities to provide full support for the 'Agnipath' recruitment rallies.

CM Mann's direction to all the deputy commissioners in the state came after the Indian Army claimed that the rallies had received "vacillating" support from the local administration.

"Any laxity shall be viewed seriously. Every effort will be made to recruit maximum number of candidates in to army from the state," Mann tweeted.

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Delhi CM and AAP supremo Arvind Kejriwal also seconded CM Mann's assurance, saying that the Punjab government would extend "full support" to the Agnipath scheme.

"We had differences with the Centre on Agnipath Scheme but since the Centre has implemented it we will support it fully. We will completely cooperate with the scheme and the army," Kejriwal said while addressing a press conference on Wednesday.

'Support From Civil Administration Vacillating'

This comes after Major General Sharad Bikram Singh from the army's zonal recruitment office in Jalandhar wrote to Punjab Chief Secretary VK Janjua and Kumar Rahul, the principal secretary for employment generation, skill development, and training.

In his letter dated 8 September, Major General Singh said that they are facing a lack of support from the local administration in organising the recruitment rallies for the Agnipath scheme.

“We are constrained to bring to your kind attention that support from local civil administration is vacillating with no clear cut commitments. They are usually citing their inadequacies due to lack of directions from the state government at Chandigarh or lack of funds,” Singh said in the letter as reported by The Indian Express.

The letter also said that there are some "inescapable requirements" that the civil administration must tend to for conducting the rallies, including "police assistance for law and order, security, crowd control, essential barricading to enable controlled and smooth entry of candidates."

Singh added that police assistance, immediate medical assistance, and arrangements for water, food, rain shelters and mobile toilets need to be made. The letter also stated that the administrative and financial support that other states are providing is "praise worthy."

The letter further stated that unless they receive "clear cut commitment" from the government's side, "we would be taking up case with Army Headquarters to hold in abeyance all future recruitment rallies and procedures in the State of Punjab, alternately conduct rallies in neighbouring states."

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Surabhi Malik, deputy commissioner, Ludhiana, told The Indian Express that the army had not faced any issues in conducting Agnipath recruitment rallies in Ludhiana.

Malik said:

"In fact, we have been given an appreciation certificate by the Army recruitment authorities for the smooth conduct of the Agniveer rally in August."

Army sources later clarified that rallies in Gurdaspur and Ludhiana were organised with full support of civil administration and reiterated that there is "no plan to shift" recruitment rallies from Punjab to any other state.

What Is Agnipath?

The central government has launched the Agnipath scheme in June this year, under which soldiers will be recruited in the Indian Army for four years.

After four years, only around 25 percent of the soldiers known as "Agniveers", will be retained in the armed forces while the others will retire with a one-time "Seva Nidhi" tax-free package. They will not receive any pension benefits or gratuity.

The launch of the scheme had led to widespread protests across the country, as protesters questioned their options after their four-year service.

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