New Delhi: Defence minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday rejected the Opposition's allegations that, for the first time in the country, caste certificates are being asked from the Agnipath aspirants.
"It's just a rumour. The earlier system, existing since the pre-independence era, is going on. No change has been made. The old system is being continued," said Mr Singh.
A senior Army official said that the requirement for aspirants to submit caste certificates and, if required, religion certificates was always there. "There are no changes to the Agniveer recruitment scheme in this regard," said the official.
Earlier, several Opposition leaders had alleged that the Army was using caste as a factor for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme. Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav and AAP's Sanjay Singh launched a sharp attack on the government, while JD(U) leader Upendra Kushwaha and BJP MP Varun Gandhi also tweeted a purported document linked to the recruitment exercise to question the need for a caste certificate and raised concerns.
The RJD leader alleged that the "extremely casteist government of the Sangh (RSS) at the Centre" will now look at Agnipath recruits' caste and religion while discharging 75 per cent of them.
"When there is no reservation in the Army, then what is the need for a caste certificate," Mr Yadav asked, tagging the purported Army document that sought caste and religious certificates among other documents from the applicants.
"The BJP government of the RSS runs away from the caste census but asks Agniveers who will lay down their lives for the country about their caste," he said.
AAP's Sanjay Singh in a tweet said that for the first time in India's history, candidates have been asked to mention their caste in the Army recruitment and asked if Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not consider dalits, backwards and tribals eligible to serve in the armed forces. "The cheap face of the Modi government has come out in front of the country... Modi ji, you have to make 'Agniveer' or 'Jaativeer'," he tweeted in Hindi.
RJD MP Manoj Jha had submitted an adjournment notice to discuss what he termed the "disastrous implications" of the Agnipath scheme as well as "the denial of opportunities" in the railways to thousands of job aspirants.
Last month, the government launched the Agnipath scheme, a short-term recruitment format in the armed forces....