Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture Meenakshi Lekhi said on Saturday that while several countries are making military service compulsory, the Indian government has chosen to undertake a “huge expense” by putting set up the Agnipath program.
Lekhi was speaking at the launch of the book ‘Swadhinta Sangram na 75 Shoorveero’ which narrates a one page summary of 75 freedom fighters from India.
Pointing out that countries “like Singapore, Israel” “compulsorily force children after school to work with the army,” Lekhi said, “Here the government officially takes (recruits) you and also pays you Rs 22 lakh in four years…Where else can one get Rs 22 lakh in four years?It is a huge expense that the government undertakes.
The Union minister further said that the people “attempting to spread false rumours” about the Agnipath program are likely the same people who were “spreading false rumours” during the Covid-19 pandemic about the vaccine.
“There is no need for there to be a ladai ka mahaul (war situation), but even without a war situation, there may be a disaster situation which the country experiences frequently, so if there are trained people (dealing with disasters) that the job will be done,” added Lekhi.
Part of the event included 75 children dressed up as the 75 freedom fighters featured in the book.
One such child wearing a prison uniform with ‘786’ written on the uniform caught Lekhi’s attention, who then had a chat with the child after the cosplay.
Sharing the conversation with the congregation, Lekhi said, “A child’s shirt had ‘786’ written on it. I deliberately asked him, ‘what is this 786?’ He did not know. He’s seen so many movies where 786 is written on the defendant’s uniform but he doesn’t know what 786 means.”
“So those kinds of influences are there in society even today that have the power to affect the mentality and change the thought process of children. And so there’s a need for a counter- influence that would work to change the mentality and thought processes of children, teach them to work for the betterment of the country, which inspires them,” the Minister added.
The number 786 draws from Islamic culture, said to be the total value of the letters of “Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahim”, translating to “In the name of Allah, the compassionate, the merciful”.
The book was launched by the Hindu Spiritual and Service Foundation as part of its Initiative for Moral and Cultural Training Foundation.
Among the freedom fighters listed in the book are lesser-known figures such as Vasantrao Hegishte and Rajab Ali Lakhani, who had repelled hordes of rioters during the annual rathyatra in 1946 of the Jagannath temple in Jamalpur.
Ahmedabad-based Veer Vinod Kinariwala who was shot by a British officer while waving the Indian flag outside Gujarat college on the first day of the Quit India movement finds a mention, as does Gujarat Indian poet Jhaverchand Meghani.