Trains were set afire, rail and road traffic disputed, and passers-by, including a ruling BJP MLA, pelted with stones as the protests spread to multiple states across the country. At various places, police fired teargas and resorted to lathicharge to disperse the protesters.
The Agnipath scheme is the government’s defence recruitment reform under which around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave service in just four years. Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.
Demanding the reinstatement of the previous recruitment system, aspirants across several districts of Bihar Thursday blocked rail and road traffic and also vandalised some shops and private establishments to protest against Agnipath. Trains were set afire, window panes of buses smashed and passersby, including a ruling BJP MLA, pelted with stones during the protests.
At various places, the police fired teargas shells and charged baton to disperse the angry protesters. Demonstrations were held in Jehanabad, Buxar, Katihar, Saran, Bhojpur and Kaimur, disrupting road traffic as well many local sustaining injuries in incidents of stone-pelting.
Hundreds of youngsters led by the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) staged protests in several parts of Rajasthan. Protest rallies were held in Jodhpur, Sikar, Jaipur, Nagaur, Ajmer and Jhunjhunu districts, news agency PTI reported.
Scores of Army aspirants protested outside the force’s recruitment office at B C Road in Jammu against the alleged cancellation of a scheduled written test in view of the introduction of Agnipath. The Jammu and Kashmir Police resorted to lathicharge as the protests led to the disruption of vehicular traffic on the busy road.
Earlier in the day, the protesters blocked the busy Tawi bridge and raised slogans against the government, disrupting vehicular traffic for nearly an hour.
Over a dozen defence force aspirants Thursday laid down on tracks stopping a train at Nangloi Railway Station in outer Delhi.
Meanwhile, hundreds of young aspirants took to the streets in Bilaspur and Sidhrawali areas of Gurugram and Rewari.
Protests also turned violent in Haryana’s Palwal as hundreds of youths demanding a withdrawal of the scheme took to streets and gheraoed the residence of the deputy commissioner. The protesters blocked roads and resorted to stone-pelting, as well as torched a few vehicles. A senior police officer said that several cops had suffered injuries, adding that the situation was now under control.
In Uttar Pradesh, protests erupted in Bulandshahr and Ballia districts. According to locals, the protesters gathered in Khurja locality and the city area of Bulandshahr and raised slogans against the central government demanding withdrawal of the scheme, news agency PTI reported.
Meanwhile, a number of retired Army officers expressed reservations at the new method of recruitment of soldiers. Ex-servicemen associations in Punjab and Haryana have hit out at the Agnipath scheme for Army recruitment saying it is akin to playing with the career of the youth and cautioned the government against “experimenting with the Army”.
In the wake of the protests, the Central Government has released a “Myths vs Facts” document addressing the concerns raised on the recruitment plan. The government has said that those wishing to be entrepreneurs after their service as Agniveers will get a financial package and bank loan scheme and those wishing to study further will be given a 12th Class equivalent certificate and a bridging course for further studies, and those who want salaried jobs will be given priority in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and state police.
(With PTI inputs)