Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Army After Rahul Gandhi’s Claim

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The Army, in a late-night post on Wednesday, has clarified that Agniveer Ajay Kumar’s family has been paid Rs 98.39 lakh within hours of Rahul Gandhi’s claim that Rajnath Singh “lied” to parliament about compensation of Rs 1 crore being paid to the family. 

“Certain posts on Social Media have brought out that compensation hasn’t been paid to the Next of Kin of Agniveer Ajay Kumar who lost his life in the line of duty,” said the Army in a post on X, underlining that it salutes the supreme sacrifice made by the Agniveer. 

“The last rites were carried out with full Military Honours. Of the total amount due, family of Agniveer Ajay has already been paid Rs 98.39 lakhs. Ex – Gratia and other benefits amounting to approximately 67 lakhs, as applicable according to the provisions of the Agniveer Scheme, will be paid on Final Account Settlement shortly post due Police verification. The total amount will be Rs 1.65 Cr approximately,” the Army added. 

Reposting the Army’s clarification, Rajnath Singh’s office said, “Indian Army is committed for the welfare of Agniveers.”

Sources have told NDTV that Rs 98 lakh were paid to the Agniveer’s family in June-end.

The clarification came within two hours of a video message by Rahul Gandhi, doubling down on his statement that compensation has not been paid to Agniveer Ajay Kumar’s family.  

“Protection of truth is the basis of every religion. But Defence Minister Rajnath Singh lied in Parliament about the assistance given to the family of martyred Agniveer. Agniveer Ajay Singh’s father himself has told the truth about their lies. The Defence Minister should apologise to the Parliament, the country, the Army and the family of Agniveer Ajay Singh ji,” said Mr Gandhi, the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, seated next to a Lord Shiva picture.

Launched in 2022, Agnipath scheme provides for short-term induction of personnel into the armed forces with an aim to bring down the age profile of the three services. Those recruited under the scheme are called Agniveers.

In the same video, the father of Ajay Singh stated that “their family had not received” any compensation from the Central government, which runs counter to the statement made by the Defence Minister.

“Rahul Gandhi is raising our voice in Parliament that families of martyrs must get all necessary help. Agniveer recruitment must stop and regular recruitment should be reinstated,” said the Agniveer’s father.

Rahul Gandhi with the family of Agniveer Ajay Kumar

Under the existing provisions, families of Agniveers who die in the line of duty are not eligible for regular benefits like pension. A parliamentary panel in February had recommended that families of Agniveers dying in the line of duty should get the same benefits that are extended to those of regular military personnel.

Earlier on Monday, Rajnath Singh objected to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s remarks in Lok Sabha on the Agniveer scheme and said financial assistance of Rs 1 crore is given to the family of the Agniveer who dies in the line of duty or during a war.

“You are creating a divide between soldiers. One will get the name of a martyr, while one will not (the Agniveer). One will get the pension, while the other will not (the Agniveer). An Agniveer is not called a jawan. And then you call yourself a patriot,” said Mr Gandhi, suggesting there are two classes of soldiers. 

Over the years, the ministries of Defence and Home have reiterated that there is no official usage of the term ‘martyr’.

Mr Singh accused Mr Gandhi of trying to mislead the House by making wrong statements.

“He (Rahul Gandhi) should not try to mislead the House by making wrong statements. Financial assistance of Rs one crore is given to the family of the Agniveer who sacrifices his life while protecting our borders or during war,” said the Defence Minister.

Galat nahi hai, sir; galat nahi hai, sir (I am not wrong, sir; I am not wrong, sir),” Mr Gandhi protested to the Speaker.

Mr Gandhi used both compensation and pension in his speech and while replying Mr Singh used the word compensation.

“Regarding the Agniveer scheme, direct communication was established with many people, 158 organizations, their suggestions were taken, then this Agniveer scheme has been brought. This scheme has been brought after a lot of thought,” Mr Singh said. 

The Centre maintains that a good financial package to Agniveers at the end of their four-year service will give them a good head start, besides the unique experience of working in the forces.

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