Soon after announcing that there will be no rollback of the Agnipath Scheme amid protests against the new military recruitment programme, a top army official on Sunday urged the youth to "start preparing" instead of "wasting their time" by taking to the streets.
Earlier today, the top officials of the Indian Army, Navy and Airforce held a joint press briefing here wherein they explained the benefits of the Agnipath Scheme and clarified that the programme would not be rolled back.
Speaking to ANI, Lt Gen Anil Puri, Addt'l Secy, Dept of Military Affairs, said, "By going to the streets, they are only wasting their time, they should spend this time to get themselves physically ready. The worst issue is that today we are not what we were 10 years back. Everything is interconnected. Why roger your future? It's not worth it. I appeal to them to start preparing." The officer, while explaining the motive of the scheme, said that it was designed keeping the youth in mind.
"We have thought through the scheme which has been designed keeping the youth of the country in mind. We know that in the coming days that the youth of the country will be less than 25 years, 50 per cent of them. And the Indian Army has to be reflective of this," Lt Gen Puri said.
Mentioning the protests that turned violent in various parts of the country, the officer said that they never thought that the "youth will damage the government property" though they knew that there may be some anger because of the change in the recruitment procedure.
"We know that all these problems (protests) may happen. Anger comes when change happens but we never thought youth will damage govt property... Anger and arson are two different things," he said.
When asked about the appropriate place where the youth can express their opinion and anger against the scheme, the Army officer said that there are various recruitment centres across the country where they can be informed about the new procedure of recruitment properly.
"There are 112 recruitment centres, 84 of the Army. All they have to do is knock the door and ask about the scheme. They are stopping themselves because somebody is stopping them," he said.
"What is the definition of the youth? It's 17 and a half to 21, 23 years. Who is telling him about the scheme? Everyone else except him and they are telling him there is some problem. Because of this, there is negativism. I feel this will come down, there is no doubt about it," the officer added.
Earlier today, giving a stern message to anti-Agnipath protestors who vandalised public property during their agitation, Lt Gen Anil Puri said that the aspirants will have to "write a pledge in the enrolment form" that they were "not involved in arson", warning that if "FIR is lodged, they simply can't join" the forces.
"Indian Army's foundation is discipline. There is no space for arson or vandalism. Every individual will give a certificate that they were not part of the protest or vandalism. Police verification is 100 per cent, no one can join without that," he said.
The officer also clarified amid demands by several corners regarding the scrapping of the newly launched Agnipath Scheme, that the programme will "not" be rolled back.
"Coming to the rollback of the scheme, no. Why should it be rolled back? It is the only progressive step to making the country young. Why is it being made young? We are tinkering with 'Desk ki Raksha (national security). There is no space. I will give you an example. Do you know how many casualties are reported just for health purposes from high-altitude areas? Do read about it, then you would come to know why young is important," the officer said.