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  • Dhanashri Warghade

Nationwide protests erupted against Central Governments’s Agnipath scheme

Violent protests had erupted over Centre Government’s 'Agnipath' Scheme in many districts in the country on June 16. 'Agneepath' or 'Agneeveer' scheme is a process for recruiting soldiers in the Army, Navy and Air force, to be hired for a term of four years on contract. Under the scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the 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. The move will make the permanent force levels much leaner for the over 13-lakh strong armed forces in the country.

Protest demonstrations were staged in different parts of the different states for several days over this issue. Specially in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Haryana, Delhi, Kerala and Tamil Nadu. Protesters raised concerns over job security and pension. Scores of protesters, students had participated in the nationwide protest. They raised slogans against the Central Government. Normal life was disrupted due to this massive protest.

Protesters burnt effigies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the protests. In several states; they burnt trains coaches. Three trains burnt by the protesters during protests. Stone pelting incidents reported at Secunderabad railway station in Telangana. Some state and national highways and roads were disrupted for traffic movement. Train services were completely affected on East Coast Railway zone. One train was set on fire near Howrah railway station in Kolkata, West Bengal. Around 369 trains were canceled, 86 terminated, short terminated, and 98 rescheduled due to this protest. They had blocked railway tracks in Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. But, luckily no one was hurt in this incident. Armed forces aspirants staged a protest at Bhabua Road railway station.

Angry students set fire to a train bogie at Chapra railway station in Bihar during the protest. They burn tyres and vandalized a bus. They had blocked railway tracks & set a train ablaze. Angry crowd gathered in Nawada and fired tear gas for the disturbance. Students vandalized the bus in Ludhiana in Punjab. They demanded the old recruitment process for the Agneepath scheme. They urged to government not to implement this new scheme. The district administration and state government had imposed SRPF and additional police team to control the situation. Youth also held a protest in Jehanabad district and disrupted rail and road traffic.

Section 144 CrPc was imposed in some parts of Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to control the situation. Internet services were suspended in 12 of Bihar's 38 districts, Palwal of the Haryana. SMS services suspended in the Ballabhgarh area of Faridabad district for 24 hours. Around 250 people were detained by the Bihar Police and they lodged 25 FIRs in a one day. Police force resorted to baton charge on protesters in various districts. Aam Admi party, Congress and Samyukta Kisan Union, all India Students Association (AISA) had extended their support to this protest. Students protested in Telangana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab too. Protests were erupted in Haryana's Hisar, Fatehabad, and Jhajjar.

After this various protests, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on 17 June approved a proposal to reserve 10 percent of the job vacancies in Ministry of Defence for 'Agniveers' after they meet requisite eligibility criteria. Also, 10 percent reservation will be implemented in the Indian Coast Guard and defence civilian posts and all the 16 defence PSUs. Similarly, train services were resumed on June 18. Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao declared a ₹25 lakh ex-gratia payment to the family of a youth who had been allegedly murdered in a Railway Police shooting while engaging in a dharna against the Central government's Agnipath army recruiting plan.

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