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Centre’s claims and the reality of compensation for Agniveer soldier’s family

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Centre’s claims and the reality of compensation for Agniveer soldier’s family
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The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Narendra Modi has come under scrutiny for allegedly misrepresenting the nature of compensation provided to the family of Ajay Kumar, an Agniveer who died in a landmine explosion on January 18 in Jammu and Kashmir.

The debate has intensified following Congress MP Rahul Gandhi's criticism of the Agniveer scheme, which he claims introduces a disparity in entitlements between permanent soldiers and those recruited as Agniveers.

In a recent Lok Sabha speech, Gandhi described the Agnipath scheme, which recruits Agniveers on a short-term basis, as a "use and throw" policy. He argued that it unfairly differentiates between permanent soldiers and Agniveers, particularly in terms of benefits provided to their families in the event of their death.

Gandhi's remarks were met with a rebuttal from Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who asserted that the government provides a compensation of Rs 1 crore to families of Agniveers killed in the line of duty.

However, the situation escalated when Gandhi, through a video posted on social media, accused the Defence Minister of lying about the compensation. The video featured Kumar's father claiming that while the Punjab government had provided some financial assistance, they had received nothing from the Central government. This claim was in stark contrast to Singh's assertion in Parliament.

In response, the Indian Army's spokesperson claimed on social media that Kumar's family had already received Rs 98.39 lakhs and that additional benefits amounting to approximately Rs 67 lakhs would be paid following the final account settlement. The total compensation was projected to be around Rs 1.65 crore. Despite this, the breakdown of the compensation raised further questions, according to The Wire.

The details revealed that the Rs 98.39 lakhs received by Kumar's family included Rs 48 lakh from government insurance and Rs 50 lakh from a public sector bank's insurance policy, applicable to all soldiers holding a salary account with the bank. This distinction is crucial because it indicates that a significant portion of the compensation came from insurance policies rather than direct government compensation.

Army veteran Colonel Amit Kumar and other commentators have highlighted that insurance money should not be conflated with government-provided compensation. Colonel Kumar noted that while the Defence Minister stated that the government gave Rs 1 crore, the insurance money alone amounted to Rs 48 lakh, which is not a government award or reward, The Wire reported.

Furthermore, comparisons were drawn between the benefits provided to permanent soldiers and Agniveers, emphasizing the disparities.

The compensation structure for permanent soldiers includes a lifelong pension, medical facilities, and various other benefits that are not available to Agniveers' families. For instance, permanent soldiers' families are entitled to liberalized family pensions, medical facilities, marriage and vocational training grants, educational concessions, government accommodation retention, and job reservations, among other benefits.

In contrast, Agniveers' families receive ex-gratia payments, insurance benefits, and the deceased soldier's balance of pay till the end of the contract, but do not have access to the broader range of long-term benefits.

This disparity has fuelled criticism of the Agnipath scheme, with opponents arguing that it fails to provide equal compensation for equal sacrifice. The government's attempt to include the bank's insurance policy in the compensation narrative has been seen as misleading, as this policy is independent of government action and could be subject to change.

While the family of Ajay Kumar has received close to Rs 1 crore, the majority of this amount is derived from insurance policies rather than direct government compensation. This has led to allegations of misrepresentation by the government, highlighting the ongoing debate over the Agnipath scheme and the need for equitable treatment of all soldiers, regardless of their recruitment status.

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TAGS:Rahul GandhiNDAAgniveer Scheme
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