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SOURCE: PTI

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi on Monday claimed the ‘Agnipath’ recruitment scheme will adversely impact the morale of armed forces as he continued his attack on the Centre on a range of issues – from note ban to unemployment to inflation – during his Bharat Jodo Yatra which entered its 68th day.

Speaking at a public meeting in Hingoli district of central Maharashtra, organised as part of the Congress’s mass outreach programme, he hit out at the Narendra Modi government, claiming policies like ‘Agnipath’, note ban and Goods and Service Tax (GST) were formulated to instill fear among the people of the country.

Mr Gandhi alleged the Prime Minister wants ‘Made in China’ products as this will benefit “two-three billionaires” in the country.

“What is Narendra Modi ji doing? They (the BJP) are trying to spread fear, violence and hatred. Be it note ban, Agnipath, GST…all their policies only scare people. The one who gets scared, there is hatred in his heart which leads to division in the society. And then they say they are patriots,” he said.

Mr Gandhi criticised what he dubbed the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) brand of “patriotism”.

“Not waiving farmers’ loans is patriotism, implementing the wrong GST is patriotism, spreading hatred in the country is patriotism, (bringing the contentious) farms laws is patriotism, unemployment is patriotism, and inflation is patriotism. This is not India’s patriotism. This is RSS patriotism,” said the Lok Sabha MP from Kerala.

The former Congress president maintained the 2016 note ban exercise and “faulty” implementation of the GST in 2017 were weapons to attack small shop owners and small and medium businesses.

“These policies were enacted to instill fear because they want to create hate. They want to divide people and spread violence and divert attention from the real issues,” he alleged.

Mr Gandhi said unemployment is the only real issue plaguing the country, but the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) will not speak about it.

Speaking in context of the Agnipath scheme, announced in June this year, the Congress leader said he had an interaction with an ex-servicemen who told him a jawan is fully ready for his role in the armed forces only after after seven to eight years of training and not four years.

“If you are sending a jawan on war front with a training of six months, then you are doing an injustice because when he goes to war after six months of training, and on the other hand, with Chinese soldiers getting training of seven, eight, ten years, then you know the results,” he said.

Mr Gandhi said the Agnipath recruitment scheme will hurt the morale of the Indian armed forces.

Under Agnipath, youths will be inducted into the armed forces for a four-year tenure, while 25 per cent of them will be subsequently inducted for regular service.

Waiving a mobile phone in his hand, Gandhi asked those present at the rally where it had been manufactured.

He then proceeded to himself give the answer, “It comes from China. Who benefits from it? Those people who sell Chinese goods in India. Who is benefitted when goods come from China? It is China…and who else is benefitted? The one who also sells Chinese products in India. Modi ji wants Made in China (goods) because that will benefit two to three billionaires.” Targeting the Centre over issues faced by farmers, the Congress MP said despite cultivators paying premium to insurance companies, they do not get compensation in case of crop loss due to floods and unseasonal rains.

“Thousands of crores are being taken from farmers’ pockets and given directly to private companies. You (farmers) are told that in case of any crop damage, you will get money,” he said.

The Congress leader stated that loans of billionaires are being waived but not of farmers committing suicide.

On inflation, he said when fuel prices in the international market fall, its impact is not felt in India as rates do not drop for domestic consumers under the BJP-led regime.

Mr Gandhi said small and medium businesses generate large-scale employment, but the BJP-led government has made its mind to “finish” these enterprises.

“Note ban and GST are not policy initiatives, but (they are) weapons to attack small shop owners and small and medium businesses. This is to instill fear because they want to create hate,” he said.

The Bharat Jodo Yatra led by Gandhi entered its 68th day as it resumed from Kalamnuri in Hingoli district on Monday after a one-day break.

Senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said 600 copies of Jawaharlal Nehru’s book ‘Discovery of India’ will be distributed to yatra participants on the occasion of the birth anniversary of India’s first prime minister.

The cross-country foot-march took a one-day break in Maharashtra on Sunday and proceeded from Kalamnuri in Hingoli to Washim district on Monday.

“Today is 68th day of #BharatJodoYatra & also 133rd birth anniversary of Nehru. We are in Hingoli district & coincidentally a fine book on him in Marathi has just come out in addition to one in English & Hindi,” Mr Ramesh said in a tweet.

“(Mo)istorians will continue to distort, defame and denigrate but Nehru continues to inspire & his relevance has only increased after 2014. 600 copies of Nehru’s iconic, The Discovery of India, will be distributed to Yatris today. It was brought by a volunteer who drove all the way from Delhi for 23 hours straight at a very short notice,” said the Congress general secretary in-charge of communications.

The yatra, which started from Kanniyakumari in Tamil Nadu on September 7, has so far covered 28 districts in six states.

The Congress’s mass contact initiative will cover a distance of 382 km across five districts of Maharashtra before entering Madhya Pradesh on November 20.

It will pass through 12 states before culminating in Jammu and Kashmir in January after covering a distance of 3,570 km over nearly 150 days.