By Sushil Kutty
Agnipath and Madhushala! Two poems of Harivansh Rai Bachchan, actor Amitabh Bachchan’s father. Agnipath is about ‘hope’, while Madhushala spells ‘drunken despair’. But, with “Tu na thakega kabhi / Tu na rukega kabhi / Tu na mudega kabhi / Kar shapath, Kar shapath, Kar shapath / Agnipath agnipath agnipath”, is the Modi Government fiddling dangerously with the fighting spirit of the Indian Armed Forces?
Again, what’s already being hailed as Modi’s seminal contribution to the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force, ‘Agnipath’ and ‘Agniveer’, must have sprung from Modi’s fertile imagination, nurtured since his movie-going days. The Amitabh Bachchan starrer, ‘Agnipath’, must have been a favourite, with ‘Agniveer’ a start-up he introduced.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, from the time he announced himself Prime Minister of India, gone on a disengagement from the time before May 26, 2014. To that extent, Modi rule is not about post-2014, but about ante-2014. Narendra Modi has been systematically disrobing India, and changing the character of India’s institutions from what they were like before 2014.
What’s disquieting is that it’s still a work in progress. To get into Modi’s head will be a discovery of a shocking India, one that will hark back and forth, leaving in its wake a hotch-potch India hard to recognize. Whether it will be an idea of India the people would want to uphold would be hard to tell, suffice to say that the primary purpose of the discoveries would be to startle.
The Indian Army’s history is of valour and victory. Post-Independence, it didn’t need ‘Agnipath’, and ‘Agniveer’ to beat our enemies back. Right from the word go, India’s fighting soldiers gladly embraced martyrdom. The Sikh Regiment, the Punjab Regiment, the Rajput regiment, to name just three, made bravery their motto.
And now there’s news that the Indian army will lose its competitive edge that it gets from regimental pride! The one overriding characteristic of living under a dictatorship is that everybody of consequence is afraid to stand up to the authoritarians’ harebrained schemes. The Tughlaks always get their way.
To reiterate, doesn’t it seem like there is more to the Modi government’s armed forces recruitment plan than meets the eye? The Modi government has borrowed from “poetry and picture”, and then glossed over the rest.’ ‘Agnipath’ and ‘Agniveer’ will go hand in hand with the mission to create 10 million jobs in one-and-a-half-years!
One-and-a-half years will take us straight to the 2024 general elections, and the BJP and Narendra Modi will be canvassing for a third straight term, and third consecutive victory! And there is enough unemployment in the country to put the army recruitment plan into action straightaway!
The plan is along the lines of Yogi Adityanath’s free ration scheme. The economically weaker sections got their 35 kilos of paddy and grain and gladly voted BJP in the UP assembly elections. ‘Agnipath’ turns thousands of unemployed into soldiers and mid-2024, tens of thousands of ‘Agniveers’ in Delhi and elsewhere will vote Modi and BJP!
Dig deep, think hard and Agnipath is knee jerk. If 6-months can create an ‘Agniveer’, think of what a waste it will be to throw those “Universal Soldiers” back into the maelstrom, where they started from — unemployed again, with no pension to look forward to. The one-time cache of Rs 11 lakh will be gone before the ejected ‘Agniveer’ is inside the door of his mother’s home.
Also, what’s the guarantee the cast-aside Agniveer will land a civilian job? Study the Modi Government’s employment policy, and what we have are hundreds of thousands of unambitious youth dragging handcarts, selling pakoras and samosas.
A variant of ‘Agnipath’ and ‘Agniveer’ cannot be imposed on the Indian Railways. But disciplined soldiers will not raise a hue and cry when cast out every four years. The point is, what sort of jobs await them? Apart from crawling through undergrowth and thrusting a bayonet, what other things will an ‘Agniveer’ of 4-years’ training know?
The government will save on pension, but every four years there will be a stark stock number of youth joining the ranks of the burgeoning unemployed, youth trained to use the firearm. A steady stream of army-trained unemployed is a different kind of the unemployed let loose on the roads. From Agnipath to Madhushala, from hope to drunken despair, is but a short four years. (IPA Service)