Agnipath scheme faces trial by fire; violent protests erupt in Bihar


Soon after the government launched the Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers in the Indian armed forces, the defence aspirants preparing for a job came to the streets in protest.

On Thursday, protests against the Agnipath scheme for hiring jawans on a short-term contractual basis continued across Bihar for the second consecutive day, disrupting railway and road traffic in Jehanabad, Buxar and Nawada districts.

Protestors blocked the movement of trains on the Patna-Gaya and Patna-Buxar routes by lying down on the railway tracks in Jehanabad and Buxar districts. However, Bihar police and their railway counterparts immediately removed the protestors from the tracks.

Hundreds of agitators blocked National Highway 83 in Jehanabad and burned tyres demanding the scrapping of the scheme.

In Uttar Pradesh, students blocked the GT road in Bulandshahr and raised slogans demanding the withdrawal of the scheme.

Students and unemployed youth protested in Gonda and Unnao, too, demanding restoration of the traditional recruitment process.

Hundreds of young people took to the streets against the scheme in Bilaspur and Sidhrawali areas of Gurugram and Rewari in Haryana as well.

The protesters laid a virtual seize on bus stands and roads, crippling traffic on the Gurugram-Jaipur highway and held a protest at Bilaspur Chowk. Protests also erupted in Uttarakhand as thousands gathered demanding the withdrawal of the scheme.

Aspirants slashed the posters and banners put up by the BJP government in various parts of the state and raised slogans.

On Wednesday, around 150 people blocked the Ajmer-Delhi highway for more than an hour, leading to 2 km-long traffic jams on both sides, much to the dismay of the commuters.

To cut down on salary and pension bills, the government launched a tour on duty scheme, Agnipath, on June 14.

The three forces will recruit 46,000 youth (male and female) aged between 17.5 and 21 years under the scheme. They will be referred to as Agniveers.

The scheme faced criticism from the political opposition too.

ALSO READ: How will Agnipath affect the army’s modernisation drive?

Attacking the government over the scheme, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi warned it would reduce the operational effectiveness of the armed forces, whose dignity and valour must not be compromised.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra also hit out at the government and asked why it was making recruitment in the army its “laboratory”.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav called the move negligent and potentially fatal for the country’s future.

Congress leader Bhupinder Singh Hooda requested the government reconsider and rationalise the scheme by ensuring permanent jobs for soldiers who complete their four-year term in the armed forces. BSP supremo Mayawati also termed it unfair to rural youth.

Meanwhile, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan welcomed the scheme and said those who serve in the Army under the Agnipath scheme would be given priority in the Madhya Pradesh Police recruitment after they complete their four years of service.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath also said the government would prioritise Agniveers in recruitment to police and related services in the state.

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