Monday Musings: Why Maharashtra has been silent on Agnipath scheme?

Addressing the Shiv Sena’s 56th founding day in Pune, its chief Uddhav Thackeray made a scathing rebuke to the central government that the ‘Agneepath’ project was a mirage. Under the plan, people between the ages of 17.5 and 21 will be hired for four years of military service of their choice.

Thackeray, who is also the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, said the state is mostly silent when violent protests are taking place in parts of India. But don’t tempt Maharashtra to explode, Thackeray said.

The peasant protest or the current outrage over the new scheme of the center was quiet. This does not mean that Maharashtra does not send its troops to the armed forces. The youth of Maharashtra love their country as much as other states and are eager to serve the country in the most frequent way possible.

Some villages in western Maharashtra, Marathwada, Konkan and Vidarbha are known to have produced soldiers, some of whom have made the highest sacrifices while serving the nation.

For the past two years, most of these young men have been preparing for the Kovid-19 2020, despite holding recruitment drives to non-official ranks.

There are coaching centers in Maharashtra to prepare these youth for defense recruitment. But they are not as large as in states like Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana or Uttar Pradesh. Violence in these states has cast a lens on the role of private training centers because police suspect that coaching institutions that prepare young people for recruitment to the armed forces are behind violent protests against the project.

Most aspirants who are preparing for an Army recruitment – employing more young people in the army compared to the Air Force or Navy – have approved the plan. Even in Maharashtra there is opposition to the volcano.

But it has not hit the streets yet and is unlikely to be seen in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh or other parts of the Hindi heartland.

One of the main reasons why states like Maharashtra are largely silent is that job creation through private companies is better than the heart of Hindi. This is not to say that the employment pattern of Maharashtra is too perfect. It has fallen heavily and most of the jobs are concentrated in the Pune-Mumbai-Nashik belt. However, those who want to join the Armed Forces can get many opportunities within the state when they leave service at age 25 or 27.

Those who do not have the skills and often face agriculture after 15 years of service. Take, for example, about 3,000 villages from Satara to Upshin, where members of each household have been seen serving in the armed forces. The village is supporting the firefighting project. There are other villages like Soldier Takli in Kolhapur which has a long history with the armed forces and the perception there is in favor of this project.

In a report published by the Hindustan Times on Sunday, many men from Upshinge, western Maharashtra, who had retired from service, returned to their village and said they were “happily” engaged in farming activities.

Whether it is Western Maharashtra or Marathwada, these areas are known for their sugar cane products. When other parts of the country witnessed outrage last year, they were mostly silent against agrarian laws. One reason is that the region has not seen protests because sugarcane is a cash crop, for which three laws do not apply directly, farmers must sell their produce to nearby sugar factories.

At the same time, the more corporate cooperatives involved in the sugar sector, the more the farmer-owned firms buying agricultural products, often promised the farmers about rates.

This has largely curtailed rural unrest even in the year when the rains were not adequate. While this time the movement is about new reform, many in Maharashtra think it is a plan to destroy some jobs and should be amended. But they know that it is not bad to start anew with a self-employed opportunity in hand (some lakhs of rupees) when leaving the service.

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