Mobs Burn Trains as Protests Intensify Across India Over New Four-Year Military Service Scheme
10:20 GMT 17.06.2022 (Updated: 10:44 GMT 19.07.2022)
Since Wednesday, massive protests have engulfed India, with people demanding that the new armed force recruitment scheme introduced by the federal government be rolled back.
Young people aspiring to join the Indian armed forces on Friday morning set several train coaches
ablaze in the states of Telangana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. They are outraged at the Indian government, which announced a novel short-term recruiting scheme earlier this week.
In order to highlight their deep sense of dismay and oppose the government's move, several youth groups have started violent protests across the country.
Police had to resort to baton charges, firing tear gas, and even opening fire during the clashes.
Meanwhile, some groups of the protesters blocked
railway tracks and highways. They also clashed with security forces in states like Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, and parts of Delhi.
In Delhi, about 25 students were detained while protesting against the new recruitment scheme on Friday.
In Bihar, protesters demonstrated outside the residence of Deputy State Chief Renu Devi. She belongs to PM Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party.
In the state's Samastipur District, two passenger train coaches were set on fire. Protesters also set a train ablaze at Luckeesarai Junction railway station, one of the major railway junctions on the East Central Railway.
Meanwhile, at the Ballia Railway Station in Uttar Pradesh state, demonstrators vandalised railway station property and have set an empty train ablaze.
In Telangana state, a train was set on fire at Secunderabad railway station.
In Odisha state, hundreds of youths took to the streets to stage a protest against the newly proposed scheme.
In Haryana, some protesters threw stones outside the District Commissioner's Office in Palwal area and torched police vehicles. Police fired shots to disperse them and bring the situation under control.
Also, a curfew has been imposed in various districts of the state like Palwal, Gururgram, and Faridabad, among others.
In Jammu and Kashmir, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha, some of the protesters took out marches and raised slogans against the government and the new scheme.
According to the Indian Express
, the move aimed "at cutting the Indian Army's expenditure on ballooning salaries and pensions. Currently, half of the defence budget is consumed paying pensions. The freed fund will help the defence ministry to modernise the forces".
However, a Major General (Retd.) Sheonan Singh told reporters on Thursday, "Saving money is good, but it should not be done at the cost of defence forces. If you go to war with an experienced soldier, will a person with four years of training be able to replace him after his death? These things don't work like this."
Every year, some 60,000 personnel retire, and the army holds up to 100 fresh hiring "rallies" to replace them. However, hiring has remained suspended for quite some time due to the COVID pandemic.
The federal government's new recruitment scheme, named "Agnipath" (Path of Fire) was unveiled on Tuesday. It is for individuals aged between 17.5 and 21 years seeking to enlist. But the job duration was stated to be only four years. It was, however, said that after completion of their term, one fourth of these persons will be retained.
Under the new system, soldiers will get a fixed salary
of $380 per month, of which approximately $127 will be paid at the end of their service in the fourth year. However, they will not get pensions or social security coverage.
Under the 'Agnipath' recruitment scheme, the government aims to recruit 46,000 soldiers this year.
In the latest development, following widespread protests, the central government on Thursday evening raised the upper age limit for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme to 23 years from 21 years for 2022.