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Agnipath Row Highlights: Rajasthan govt passes resolution seeking withdrawal of Agnipath scheme

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have been blocked in 15 of 38 districts of Bihar, said Sanjay Singh, a senior police official in the state, where protesters burned passenger trains and buses this week to express their outrage

June 18, 2022 / 11:10 PM IST
Mob sets a train on fire on Wednesday in protest against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme.

Mob sets a train on fire on Wednesday in protest against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme.

Agnipath protests trigger fresh friction between allies BJP & JD (U)

The protests against the Center's Agnipath scheme that envisages recruitment of soldiers on a short-term contractual basis, triggered a fresh war of words between BJP and JD(U), with the former holding the alliance government responsible for its inability to stop attacks on the homes of BJP leaders. Talking to reporters here on Saturday, Bihar's BJP chief, Sanjay Jaiswal, whose home was vandalised by 'Agnipath' protesters, criticised the state government over what he called inadequate efforts to stop violent protests in the state.

He held the Nitish Kumar-led coalition government responsible for what he termed as targeted attacks on BJP leaders in the state. "When protestors attacked my house in Bettiah district on Friday, we called the fire brigade...they said fire tenders would come only if the local administration allows it," a visibly upset Jaiswal told reporters. Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi's home and several BJP offices were also vandalised by the protesters on Friday.

250 arrested in Bihar as violence continues for 4th day

Violence and arson marked the fourth consecutive day of protests against Agnipath on Saturday when a state-wide bandh was also called by Army aspirants to press the demand for rollback of the new system of recruitment in the armed forces.

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Police acted tough, arresting altogether 250 people across the state during the day and lodging 25 FIRs, according to a statement issued by the force here. The statement also put the total number of arrests since Thursday at 718 and said more people would be rounded up after they are identified in a thorough examination of CCTV footage and videography done at various places.

Rajasthan govt passes resolution seeking withdrawal of Agnipath scheme

The Rajasthan council of ministers on Saturday passed a resolution demanding the withdrawal of the Centre's Agnipath scheme. The resolution was passed unanimously during a meeting held at Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot's residence here, a release said.

The Centre on Tuesday unveiled the scheme for recruitment of the youth aged between 17 and a half and 21 in the Army, Navy and the Air Force, largely on a four-year short-term contractual basis. The scheme is being opposed by Army aspirants in parts of the country, including Rajasthan.

The minister expressed concern over the nationwide protests against the scheme. "There have been massive protests across the country regarding the provisions, which have created many doubts among the youth," the release said.

JP Nadda appeals to youth to believe in PM Modi, drop agitation

Calling upon the youth protesting against the defence recruitment scheme 'Agnipath' to believe in Prime Minister Narendra Modi, BJP national president J P Nadda on Saturday appealed to them to end the agitation and choose the path of discussion and understand the scheme in detail. Alleging that certain forces don't want reforms or change in the country, he claimed that the youth are being misled about the scheme.

"I want to appeal to our young friends that Agnipath is a revolutionary scheme, it is a big revolutionary step to place the Indian military at a strong position globally, we have to understand it. So, I appeal to youth, I'm aware that attempts are on to trick and mislead them," Nadda said. Addressing a meeting of Gram panchayat presidents and vice-presidents, he said there are certain forces in this country who don't want reforms or change, and they don't want the power of youth to be used in a right way in the service of the nation.

Protestors continue to attack railway properties in Bihar, demonstrate in WB, Odisha

Protestors continued to target railway properties in Bihar and West Bengal on Saturday to vent their ire against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme disrupting train services in the eastern region for the fourth day in a row, while demonstrations were held on roads in Odisha and Jharkhand. Job aspirants also did push-ups on a road in Bihar capital Patna and on railway tracks in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas, while one youth ran 60 kilometres in Odisha's Nabarangpur as marks of their opposition to the 'Agnipath' short-term recruitment scheme.

In Bihar, protestors torched the Taregana railway station in Patna district and a GRP vehicle while several law enforcers were injured in stone-throwing in Jehanabad when a bandh was also called to press for the demand for rollback of the new scheme for recruitment in armed forces. They also exchanged gunshots with GRP personnel, engaged in heavy stone-pelting and beat up journalists covering the clash.

In Danapur sub-division, bandh supporters vandalised an ambulance and the driver alleged that a patient and attendants inside were also beaten up by the mob. The ECR headquarters in Hajipur said that in view of the prevailing situation, 32 trains have been cancelled.

The situation in Bihar: The railways have suffered massive losses in Bihar during protests in the last three days. More than 60 train coaches, 10 engines and some stations have been torched by groups protesting against the introduction of the new recruitment system wherein 75 per cent of jawans will be retired after four years of service, with no pension benefits. Bandh supporters had attacked a police outpost in Jehanabad district, leaving several police personnel injured.

NC, Apni party & AAP seeks immediate rollback of Agnipath' scheme

Voicing their support to the protesting Army aspirants in Jammu and Kashmir, National Conference, Apni Party (JKAP) and Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday sought a rollback of the new Agnipath' scheme for recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces. Hundreds of army aspirants staged protest demonstrations at different places in Jammu region for the third straight day on Saturday against the scheme.

Expressing dismay over the proposed Agnipath scheme, the National Conference said the BJP-led union government is playing with the future of the youth of the country. Extending support to the protesting army aspirants, the NC said they have applied for the posts of general duty in Indian Army in 2020 following which their physical examination was conducted along with the medical examination but their written examination was not conducted even after two years.

Cancellation of trains impacting coal movement, says PSPCL

The state-owned power utility PSPCL on Saturday said the cancellation of several trains because of the protests against the Centre's Agnipath scheme is impacting movement of coal for thermal plants. Those privy to the developments said the arrival of coal rakes has gone down from around 20 rakes a day to eight rakes per day.

Chairman-cum-Managing Director of Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), Baldev Singh Saran, said, "The cancellation of various trains due to the ongoing protests is definitely impacting the arrival of coal at five thermal power plants within the state." As per an official report, coal stock at the Goindwal thermal power plant is almost finished while it is in critical category at the Talwandi Sabo thermal power plant, which is left with stocks of less than four days.

JUST IN: MHA sanctions VIP security cover of CRPF to 10 Bihar BJP leaders in view of threats to them by Agnipath protesters: Officials.

Shipping Ministry announces 6 service opportunities for Agniveers

The Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways (MoPSW)on Saturday announced six service avenues for smooth transition of Agniveers in various roles of the Merchant navy, post their stint with the Indian Navy. According to an official statement, the scheme will enable Agniveers to acquire necessary training, with naval experience and professional certification to join the remunerative merchant navy across the world.

The announcement comes amid widespread protests against the recently unveiled 'Agnipath' scheme for recruitment of soldiers in the armed forces on a short-term contractual basis. The soldiers recruited under this scheme will be called 'Agniveers'. According to the statement, these schemes for Agniveers include transition from ratings in Indian Navy to certified ratings in Merchant Navy, transition from electrical ratings in Indian Navy to certified electro-technical ratings in Merchant Navy, transition from ratings in Indian Navy to certified class IV-NCV CoC holder in Merchant Navy.

JUST IN: In Bihar, within three days, around 620 people have been arrested and 130 FIRs have been registered. As many as 140 people have been arrested on June 18 alone, said Sanjay Singh, ADG, Law and Order, on the ongoing protests against the Agnipath recruitment scheme row

Aspirant runs 60 km, anti-Agnipath protest spreads in Odisha

An aspirant for an Armed Forces job ran 60 km in Nabarangpur as a mark of his opposition to 'Agnipath' on Saturday and a large number of agitators sat in dharna near the revenue divisional commissioner's office in Berhampur in Ganjam district as protests against the scheme spread in Odisha. The agitators at Berhampur, including many who cleared the physical tests held earlier, raised slogans demanding withdrawal of the 'Agnipath' initiative and demanded at least 15 years of service in the Armed Forces instead of four after selection.

The demonstration was completely peaceful as the administration had made elaborate security arrangement keeping in view the violent agitation in different states. An agitator Dilip Kumar Nahaka said I have already spent three years in NCC and got its A, B and C certificates. Many like me have also spent two years preparing for the defence service. Now the government is saying that out tenure will be for only four years.

Besides many of the agitators have already crossed the present upper age limit of 23 years as defence recruitment was not conducted for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. When the government is conducting all other examinations, including for civil services and even IPL matches, it deferred several times recruitment for the armed forces on the plea of pandemic, he said amidst vociferous support by those present at the spot.

Police arrest anti-Agnipath demonstrators near Mamata Banerjee's home

Police on Saturday afternoon clashed with agitating members of the All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) and All India Democratic Youth Organisation (AIDYO) when they tried to block roads protesting against the Centre's 'Agnipath' scheme in the southern part of the city's Hazra area, a hundred metres from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's residence. Protesting the scheme, the activists demanded that recruits into India's armed forces be given permanent jobs rather than be taken in under the "Agnipath" scheme which employs a soldier on a contract for four years.

A huge police force led by senior officers cleared the area, arresting over 20 activists. "We will not allow anyone to disturb the law and order here. We will deal with such kinds of attempts very strictly," the police officer commanding the deployment said.

Not appropriate for sensitive govt to strike first, think later: Varun Gandhi on Agnipath

BJP MP Varun Gandhi on Saturday took a swipe at the Centre over the Agnipath scheme, saying it is not appropriate for a sensitive government to "strike first and think later" when it comes to the armed forces, security and youth's future. Gandhi cited the changes brought in the scheme, a short term employment for youngsters in the armed forces as soldiers, soon after it was announced, saying it shows that its various dimensions were not considered when the policy was being framed, he said.

The scheme, especially its feature that 75 per cent of the recruits will serve only for four years and will not enjoy benefits like regular soldiers, has sparked protests in different parts of the country amid hectic efforts by the government to assuage the youth's concerns. The upper age limit was raised to 23 years on Thursday, with some government departments announcing priority for Agniveers in jobs.

Security strengthened at Punjab's Amritsar railway station to prevent any untoward incident

“There is no violence here. Three trains have been cancelled; barring that, the situation is normal. The district police, GRP & RPF are working jointly,” said Darminder Kalyan, Inspector, GRP

JUST IN: "PSUs under housing, petroleum ministries looking at ways to hire 'Agniveers' after their four-year service in armed forces," says Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri

Amid violent protests, train services suspended in Bihar from 8 pm today: Reports

With the protests against the Centre's military recruitment scheme 'Agnipath' turning violent, train services in Bihar will remain temporarily suspended from 8 pm on June 18, reports said.

The services will be snapped from 8 pm to 4 am for the next two days, till June 20, NDTV reported. An official statement was awaited at the time of writing this report.

The suspension of rail services was reported against the backdrop of protesters setting train coaches on fire in Danapur Rail Division of Bihar. The arson and vandalism have led to a loss of around Rs 200 crore, officials said.

 

Violence-hit Secunderabad railway station under tight security cover, train services resume

Train services at Secunderabad Railway Station, which witnessed arson and violence resulting in the death of a protester aspiring to join the armed forces, are limping back to normalcy, a senior official of the South Central Railway said on Saturday.

D Rakesh, a 24-year-old Army aspirant from Warangal district, died and several people were injured after security personnel opened fire on hundreds of agitators at the Secunderabad railway station here on Friday as the protests against the Centre’s new Agnipath military recruitment scheme escalated into large-scale violence and arson.

10% reservation for 'Agniveers' in Defence Ministry jobs approved: Rajnath Singh

Amid the ongoing protests against the Centre's new military recruitment drive 'Agnipath', Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on June 18 announced that 'Agniveers' will be granted a 10 percent reservation in Defence Ministry jobs following their retirement from the armed forces.

Agniveers or the soldiers recruited under the new policy will serve a tenure of four years in the military -- subsequent to which, only 25 percent of them will be retained.

Congress announces solidarity 'Satyagrah' at Jantar Mantar

Congress MPs and leaders will sit on a “Satyagraha” at the Jantar Mantar here Sunday morning in solidarity with the youths protesting against the Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces.

Youths across the country have taken to the streets against the contentious scheme, and incidents of violence have been reported from several cities and towns.

Sources said Congress MPs, its working committee members, and All India Congress Committee office-bearers will be part of the “Satyagraha” that begins at 10 AM at Jantar the Mantar on June 19.

“The decision was taken as the Agnipath scheme has enraged the youths of our country and they are protesting on streets,” a party leader said.  “It is our responsibility to stand by them.”

Uttar Pradesh | Yesterday miscreants entered among students & indulged in violence. We detained over 3 dozen people. Social media being monitored. Some people from coaching centres also involved in provocating students. 4 FIRs filed:Deepak Kumar, DIG, Aligarh on Agnipath protests

JUST IN: Violence is not the right way; Govt listening to your concerns: Anurag Thakur 

“I appeal to youth that violence is not the right way. Govt is seriously listening to your concerns. Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports also mulling to do something for them when they come after 4 years of their service,” said Union Minister Anurag Thakur on protests against Agnipath recruitment scheme.

He added: “To provide some crash courses and to provide training to those who want to become physical education teachers. 15 lakh physical education teachers' posts are lying vacant in various states. We're thinking in this direction also.”

NFR cancels 10 more trains due to Agnipath protests & Assam floods

North-East Frontier Railways (NFR) cancelled 10 more trains on Saturday due to protests and bandh in Bihar against the 'Agnipath' military recruitment scheme and floods in Assam, an official said. In view of large scale agitation leading to damage to railway property including burning of train coaches in areas falling under the East Central Railway, Bihar bandh and damages caused to railway tracks due to flood in Lumding and Rangiya divisions of Assam some trains have been cancelled/diverted/rescheduled/short-terminated/short-originated, NFR's Chief Public Relations Officer Sabyasachi De said.

NFR had cancelled 11 trains due to violent protests in Bihar and eight due to floods in Assam on Friday. The trains Dibrugarh-Lalgarh Express, New JalpaiguriNew Delhi Express, Jorhat TownGuwahati JanShatabdi Express, New JalpaiguriRajendranagar Capital Express, KatiharSamastipur, KatiharBarauni, PurneaSaharsha passenger trains, RangiyaRangapara, Rangiya-Dekargaon, Dekargaon-Rangiya passenger trains will remain cancelled on Saturday, De said.

14.35 Violent anti-Agnipath protests continue rocking Bihar; agitators torch vehicles in police outpost

Violent anti-Agnipath protests continued rocking Bihar for the fourth consecutive day on Saturday, with agitators torching vehicles parked on the premises of a police outpost in Jehanabad district, officials said.

A large number of protestors gathered outside Tehta police outpost around 8.30 AM and started pelting security personnel with stones. Later, they set several vehicles, including a bus and a truck, on fire, they said.

Normal life was affected in Gaya, Buxar and Jehanabad districts, as well as some other parts of Bihar, as vehicles remained off the roads and shops and business establishments were shut, barring those selling essential items, due to a state-wide bandh called by student organisations led by Left-wing

All India Students’ Association (AISA). Various political parties, including RJD, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), have extended their support to the bandh call. Various political parties, including RJD, Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular) and Vikassheel Insaan Party (VIP), have extended their support to the bandh call.

Railways have cancelled several trains to prevent damage by agitators. The state government has already suspended internet services in 12 districts till June 19 due to massive violent protests rocking the state. Internet services have been suspended in Kaimur, Bhojpur, Aurangabad, Rohtas, Buxar, Nawada, West Champaran, Samastipur, Lakhisarai, Begusarai, Vaishali and Saran districts, as per an order issued by the Home Department.

Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of CrPC have also been imposed in the most-affected districts to prevent any untoward incident, a senior police official said.

14.14 West Bengal: Anti-Agnipath protesters block railway tracks, do push-ups

Train services on the Sealdah-Barrackpore route in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district were disrupted for around one hour on Saturday as a group of anti-Agnipath agitators blocked railway tracks and did push-ups to register protest against the new scheme for recruitment in armed forces.

Around 20 protesters blocked both up and down lines at a level crossing from around 10 AM thus also affecting vehicular traffic, a spokesperson of the Eastern Railway said.

”We love our country, please don’t play with our future. We have been preparing for the army for several years, and now the Centre implements Agnipath scheme. We demand its immediate rollback,” one of the protesters, carrying ’Boycott Agnipath’ placard, told reporters.

The demonstration affected railway services during office hours, and many commuters waiting at Barrackpore Railway Station reached the protest site and an altercation ensued with the agitators.

The protesters were removed from the spot around 11.15 AM and railway services and movement of vehicles resumed, a GRP official said. Around 50-60 anti-Agnipath agitators had blocked the railway tracks at Thakurnagar station in the district for an hour-and-a-half on the previous day.

13.30 Agnipath scheme rolled out after wide-ranging consultations: Rajnath Singh

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on June 18 strongly defended the new military recruitment model saying it was rolled out after wide-ranging consultations including with the ex-servicemen and suggested that a "misunderstanding" is being spread for political reasons.

He said the scheme will bring revolutionary changes in the enrolment process for soldiers, asserting that there will be no compromise on the quality of training to be imparted to the personnel to be recruited under the scheme.

"It is bringing revolutionary changes in the recruitment process in the armed forces. Some people are spreading misunderstanding about it. Maybe, there could be some confusion among the people as it is a new scheme," Singh said speaking at a conclave organised by the TV9 media group.

The defence minister said the scheme was rolled out after around two years of deliberations including with the ex-servicemen community and a decision was taken based on a consensus.

"We wanted that there is a sense of discipline and pride for the country among the people," he said. Without taking the name of any political party, the defence minister suggested that some of the protests against the 'Agnipath' scheme could be based on political considerations.

"There are so many issues to show any political party in poor light. But whatever politics we do, whether remaining in the opposition or in the government, it is for the country," he said. The defence minister further added, "Should we lower the morale of the soldiers of the country? This is not justice."

In his address, the defence minister said the personnel to be recruited under the 'Agnipath scheme' will be given priority in the selection for various jobs by state governments, private industries, public sector undertakings and paramilitary forces.

"They will be given priority in selection in various government departments. ‘Agniveer' is not just the name of bringing new recruits into the armed forces. But, they will also be given the same quality training that the soldiers of the military are getting today. Training time may be short but the quality will not be compromised," he said.

Referring to the financial package of Rs 11.71 lakh to be given to each of the 'Agniveers' after completion of the four-year tenure, Singh said the government will also facilitate providing loans at the low-interest rates if they need additional resources to start new ventures.

"Our government is making schemes so that the Agniveers when they come out after serving for four years, get employment," he said.

13.19 PM Narendra Modi will have to become 'maafiveer', take back 'Agnipath': Rahul Gandhi

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on June 18 said that just as Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to withdraw the farm laws, he will have to accept the demand of the youth and rollback the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme.

The former Congress chief also said that for eight consecutive years, the BJP government has “insulted” the values of ’Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’.

In a tweet in Hindi, Rahul Gandhi said, “I had said earlier also that the prime minister will have to withdraw the black farm laws.” ”In the same manner, he will have to accept the demand of the youth of the country by becoming ’maafiveer’ and take back the ’Agnipath’ scheme,” he said.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also stepped up her attack on the government over the Agnipath scheme and urged the Centre to understand the pain of the rural youth preparing for recruitment in the armed forces.

In a tweet in Hindi, Priyanka Gandhi said, “Understand the pain of the rural youth preparing for Army recruitment. No recruitment for the past three years. They have blisters on their feet due to running continuously, they are desperate.”

“Youths were waiting for the Air force recruitment results and appointments. The government took away their permanent recruitment, rank, pension and stalled recruitment,” Priyanka Gandhi alleged.

She also shared a copy of a letter she wrote to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in March over delays in recruitment in the armed forces. She had urged Singh to take necessary steps to ensure that the hard work of aspirants is respected. In her letter dated March 29, Priyanka Gandhi had flagged the problems being faced by youths in recruitment in the armed forces.

12.30 Massive protest rally in Kerala

Hundreds of youth in Thiruvananthapuram on June 18 took out a massive protest march against the Centre's decision to implement the new Agnipath scheme for the recruitment of soldiers, airmen and sailors.

Large number of army job aspirants, who have been reportedly waiting to get enrolled into the defence service, gathered at Thampanoor, located in the heart of the city, in the morning and marched to Raj Bhavan, the official residence of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan.

They could be seen raising slogans against the Union government's new military recruitment scheme and holding placards and banners urging the authorities to withdraw their decision at the earliest. The protesting youth were reportedly hailing from various parts of the southern state.

An agitating man said they would continue the strike till the Centre rolls back its decision and justice is ensured to them.

"Many of us have decided to join the army and started preparations for the examination after dropping our graduation studies midway. What will we do if the Centre goes ahead with this scheme? Our future will be in peril. So, we will continue our fight till we get justice," he said. (PTI)

12.25 India suspends Internet in eastern state over military recruitment protests

Indian authorities suspended Internet services in several parts of the eastern state of Bihar in a bid to stop public gatherings and violent protests over a military recruitment plan, police officials said on June 18.

The Agnipath or "path of fire" system aims to bring more people into the military on four-year contracts to lower the average age of India's 1.38 million-strong armed forces and cut burgeoning pension costs, the government said.

Protesters, mainly young men, say the plan will limit opportunities for permanent jobs with the defence forces, which guarantee fixed salaries, pensions and other benefits. Many took to the streets in Bihar, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to protest against this plan.

Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp have been blocked in 15 of 38 districts of Bihar, said Sanjay Singh, a senior police official in the state, where protesters burned passenger trains and buses this week to express their outrage.

"I didn't anticipate any protests like this," Admiral R. Hari Kumar told Reuters TV partner ANI. "It is the single biggest human resource management transformation that has ever happened in the Indian military." (Reuters)

10.17 After raising age limit, home ministry keeps 10% quota for Agniveers in CAPF, Assam Rifles

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) will reserve 10 percent vacancies for recruitment in the CAPFs and Assam Rifles for ‘Agniveers’, the office of home minister Amit Shah tweeted on June 18.

Further, the MHA will also provide three years age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit to Agniveers for recruitment in CAPFs and Assam Rifles, the ministry tweet said.

It added that for the first batch of Agniveers, the age relaxation will be for five years beyond the prescribed upper age limit.

The modifications to the contentious defence recruitment scheme dubbed ‘Agnipath’ comes after three-days of nation-wide riots and protests which culminated in the death of one in police firing in Telangana's Secunderabad.

Also Read | Agnipath row: 15 held, 225 booked for violence, blocking expressway near Noida during protest

9.42 15 held, 225 booked for violence, blocking expressway near Noida during protest

Protests against the Centre's Agnipath scheme continued on Friday as scores of youngsters descended on the Yamuna Expressway and blocked traffic movement briefly, prompting Gautam Buddh Nagar police to lodge an FIR against 225 protesters and arrest 15, officials said.

The police said in a statement that it has arrested 10 people and lodged an FIR against 225 people in connection with the protests that obstructed vehicular movement during the day.  The number of arrests was later updated to 15, according to UP ADG (Law and Order) Prashant Kumar. "The road was blocked by some chaotic elements, protesting in unison and pelting stones.

Of those accused, 75 are named and 225 unnamed, the police said. The FIR has been lodged under Indian Penal Code sections 147, 148, 149 (all related to rioting), 323 (causing hurt), 504 (insult to provoke breach of peace), 332 (causing hurt to deter public servant from duty), 353 (assault on public servant), 336 (endangering others' life), 341 (wrongful restraint) and 427 (mischief), the police said.

Charges under the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 1932 have also been invoked in the FIR, according to the statement. "So far, 10 people have been arrested. Efforts are underway to establish identity of others involved in the violence with the help of CCTV footages, videos and pictures after which strict legal action will be taken against them," the police said earlier.

7.28 Agnipath unrest singes nation, turns train stations, highways into battleground

A man was shot dead in police firing in Telangana's Secunderabad, trains went up in flames, and public and private vehicles attacked, as railway stations and highways turned into battleground in many states on Friday amid worsening protests against Agnipath, the contentious defence recruitment scheme. The 24 year-old Rakesh, an Army aspirant from Dabeerpet village in Warangal district, was the first victim of the violent unrest sweeping across the country since Wednesday.

Assurances by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and the Army chief failed to cut the ice with hordes of angry youth, carrying bamboo sticks and stones, storming railway premises across cities and small towns and laying siege to highways, creating a security scare.

The Indian Railways cancelled 234 trains, while 340 have been affected due to the protests. Coaches of seven trains have so far been set ablaze by protesters, officials said, adding carriages of three running trains in the East Central Railway (ECR), headquartered in Bihar's Hajipur, and one empty rake in Kulharia, also in the same zone, were damaged by protestors. One coach of a train was also damaged in the washing line at Uttar Pradesh's Ballia. So far, 64 trains were short terminated in ECR.

As the depredations against the recruitment scheme continued for the third day across large parts of India, from Uttar Pradesh to Telangana and Bihar to Madhya Pradesh, Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and Army chief Gen Manoj Pande tried to assuage the concerns of the agitators with little success. Though not as intense, protests were also organised in Jharkhand, Punjab and Rajasthan.

Events so far

Protests have erupted in several Indian states since June 16 against the Agnipath scheme, which seeks to recruit soldiers into the Army, Navy and Air Force for a four-year-period, followed by compulsory retirement for most, without gratuity and pension benefits.

Since then, 24-year-old Army aspirant Rakesh from Warangal was shot to death by police in Secunderabad, trains have been burnt in Bihar, Telangana and Uttar Pradesh, vehicles attacked and pelted with stones, and railways stations, rail tracks and highways blocked by squatting protestors across — in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Madhya Pradesh, and on a smaller scale in Rajasthan, Punjab and Jharkhand.

Assurances by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and the Army Chief General Manoj Pande failed to cut the ice with hordes of angry youth, carrying bamboo sticks and stones, storming railway premises across cities and small towns and laying siege to highways, creating a security scare.

Also Read | Agnipath unrest singes nation, turns train stations, highways into battleground

The Indian Railways cancelled 234 trains, while 340 have been affected due to the protests.

Students' organisations such as the CPI-ML (Liberation)-linked AISA, have called a state-wide bandh in Bihar on June 18. The opposition Grand Alliance's spearhead RJD has extended support to the bandh.

Government’s moves

This is the MHA’s newest move to assuage protestors’ ire. On June 16 night, the upper age limit for Agnipath was raised to 23 from 21 for 2022.

Home Minister Shah had said this would benefit a large number of youth, while Gen. Pande called it the “right decision”, adding that it will provide opportunity for youth preparing to join the force but couldn’t in the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh in a tweet thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for “his concern and sensitivity towards the future of youths”, adding that the scheme is a “golden opportunity”.

In Pics | Protestors set trains on fire to protest against 'Agnipath military scheme'

Internet services have been suspended in 12 of Bihar's 38 districts to check the spread of false news, ADG (Law and Order) Sanjay Singh said.

Following violent protests in Palwal, Haryana government suspended mobile internet and SMS services for 24 hours in Ballabhgarh area of Faridabad district as a precautionary measure.

Delhi was relatively quiet but Metro travel was disrupted with members of the Left-affiliated All India Students' Association staging demonstrations. The entry and exit gates of some Delhi Metro stations had to be closed.

What’s the scheme so far?

— Unveiling the scheme on June 14, the government said youths between the ages of 17 and-a-half and 21 years would be inducted for a four-year tenure while 25 percent of them will be subsequently inducted for regular service.

— Youth to be recruited under the new scheme would be called 'Agniveer'.

— A major objective of the scheme is to bring down the average age of military personnel and cut ballooning salary and pension bills.

— In an attempt to pacify the protesters, the government on June 16 night increased the upper age limit for recruitment under the 'Agnipath' scheme to 23 years from 21 for the year 2022.

— The monthly salary of an 'Agniveer' in the first year of employment would be Rs 30,000 and the in-hand amount would be Rs 21,000 as Rs 9,000 would go to a corpus with an equal contribution from the government.

— Subsequently, the monthly salary in the second, third and fourth year will be Rs 33,000, Rs 36,500 and Rs 40,000. Each 'Agniveer' will get an amount of Rs 11.71 lakh as 'Seva Nidhi Package' and it will be exempted from income tax.

— The four-year tenure under the new scheme will include around two-and-half months to six months of training periods.

Agnipath on pause?

It does not seem like the scheme is halted. Unfazed by the intensifying protests, the Army, Navy and the Air Force on June 17 announced that they will start the enrolment process under the new model by next week.

Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari told PTI that the selection process by the Indian Air Force for recruitment under the new scheme will start from June 24, while the Army said it will begin the initial exercise within two days.

The Indian Navy said it will start the recruitment process "very soon". A senior naval commander said the notification for the recruitment will be out within a week.

The three services are planning to deploy the first batches of recruits under the new scheme, both in operational and non-operational roles, by June next year, senior military officials said.

(With inputs from PTI, Reuters, ANI)
Moneycontrol News
first published: Jun 18, 2022 12:25 pm
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