In the era of Agniveers, a village of ‘faujis’ echoes discontent | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

In the era of Agniveers, a village of ‘faujis’ echoes discontent

ByS Raju, Saidpur( Bulandshahr)
Apr 25, 2024 04:46 AM IST

While locals advocate for the resumption of the old recruitment programme, many hope that the government at least reviews the Agnipath scheme.

While he earlier wanted to serve in the armed forces like hundreds of others in his village, the allure of being called a ‘fauji’ has all but disappeared for Akki Sirohi, 24.

The Military Heroes Memorial Inter College in Bulandhshahr’s Saidpur village
The Military Heroes Memorial Inter College in Bulandhshahr’s Saidpur village

“I failed in my first attempt. However, I have stopped even trying now as I find no charm in committing myself to a job that will last only four years,” he says. Now wanting to become a police officer instead, Akki says he wrote the recent UP police constable recruitment exam, which was later cancelled. Follow full coverage of the Lok Sabha elections here.

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Similarly, Devendra, 19, says he stopped his training to get into the army after the government launched the new recruitment scheme. “ What is the use of opting for a job that is only for four years? Even my parents have advised me not to waste my time and look for other options.”

Both Akki and Devendra hail from Saidpur, which people from the region call ‘faujiyon ka gaon’ (the village of soldiers/army personnel). While about 1,500 people from the village have already served in the ‘fauj’ (armed forces), 150 others are currently serving in different ranks, says Balwinder Singh, an ex-serviceman himself.

The local intermediate college is named Military Heroes Memorial Inter College. A memorial of Nayak Surendra Singh Ahlawat, a son of the land who was killed in the Kargil war, stands at its entrance.

Also Read | Centre open to amendments in Agnipath scheme if required: Rajnath Singh

While they are proud of their legacy, locals say Agnipath, the armed forces recruitment programme put in place by the Union government in June 2022, has only created hurdles between them and their dreams of serving in the armed forces. The recruits are now called Agniveers, a term coined in the scheme.

The village is home to about 25,000 jats (the dominant community here) who are largely BJP supporters. They’ve elected BJP’s Bhola Singh as their Lok Sabha representative twice already. Singh, who won previously by huge margins, is now seeking reelection for the second time.

Chief minister Yogi Adityanath and defence minister Rajnath Singh have already conducted election rallies in his support. The locals say Rajnath has assured them of a review of the scheme to rid it of any shortcomings.

“While we admire the defence minister, we hope that the promise is not a ‘jumla’,” says Pawan Sirohi, a Saidpur resident, even as he claims that the four-year contractual recruitment programme has shattered the dreams and ambitions of many village youths and the majority of them are now frustrated.

Charan Singh says the army has been organising recruitment camps to recruit village youths since 1971.

Also Read | Second batch of Agniveers enters Army fold

Pointing at the intermediate college’s playground, Yudh Bahadur says hundreds of local youths, who spent hours training there every day, have now given up on their army dreams.

Pawan says his 22-year-old son Paramveer is now working for a private company in Delhi after preparing to get recruited in the armed forces for almost two years.

“Boys are opting to pursue other jobs instead of serving for just four years in the army after which follows an uncertain future. “The short-term contractual recruitment programme deprives youngsters of financial and, even, social security. People do not want to marry their daughters off to an Agniveer,” Pawan and his neighbour Ravinder say.

While locals advocate for the resumption of the old recruitment programme, many like ex-army personnel Balwinder Singh hope that the government at least reviews the new scheme in the larger interest of the nation and its youth.

“We don’t see any other option other than the BJP,” Balwinder says. Parvinder also claims that a majority of votes from the village will go to the BJP on April 26, when Bulandshahr goes to polls.

He, however, says the liking for the Congress is on the rise. “I will cast my vote to Congress because it has declared in its manifesto that it will abolish the Angiveer scheme,” he remarks

Against the BJP’s Bhola Singh, the Congress has fielded Shivram Balmiki and the BSP Girish Chandra Jatav from the constituency.

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