- Protests all over the country, 12 trains torched, 214 trains cancelled
- Agnipath Schemed become test by fire for the government
Hyderabad: Several trains were set ablaze in Telangana, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh on Friday. One 19 year old youngman from Warangal district was killed in police firing at Secunderabad railway station. The stir against Agnipath scheme of recruitment in the army has spread to Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Harayana. The government has defended the scheme saying it is transformative. It had put up a ten-point defense.
A youth from Warangal has died and 13 others were injured in Secunderabad as violent protests spread to the southern States. The house of Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi was attacked in Bettiah in West Champaran district in Bihar in the midst of protests against the new recruitment scheme. Internet services have been suspended in 12 districts of Bihar.
The government announced Agnipath scheme for recruitment in Army, Navy and Air Force and called the scheme innovative and transformative. Young persons will be recruited into the three services on four year contract basis. One third of them can continue in the sevices provided they satisfy the authorities with their performance and the rest have to retire and take up some other job in civil society. The age restriction was 17.5 to 21 years. This was enhanced to 23 years on Thursday after the protests by the youth. There is no provision for pension. The rise to 23 years is one-time waver according to the government.
The WhatsAPP groups of the youngsters who were preparing for the entrance examinations for recruitment in the army have played havoc in this stir. Youth in and around Warangal had formed WhatsApp groups and conveyed messages to descend on Secunderabad railway station on Friday morning. They assembled in hundreds, pelted stones and torched trains. The police resorted to lathi charge and firing. Stones were pelted by the youth allegedly belonging to INSUI (National Students Union of India) of the Congress party.
In Uttar Pradesh, a mob entered Balia Railway station and set a railway coach on fire and damaged railway property on Friday morning. Protests occurred in Varanasi, Firozabad and Amethi causing damage to buses and other government properties. In Aligarh, a BJP leader’s car was burnt. 12 trains have been torched and 214 trains have been cancelled. 90 trains did not reach their destinations and eleven trains were diverted. “I appeal to the youth to not indulge in violent protests and not damage the property of the Railways. Railways are the property of the country,” said Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw in a statement.
Both Congress leader Rahul Gandhi and Samajwadi chief Akhilesh Yadav have criticized the move.
India Army Chief General Manoj Pande hailed the Centre’s decision to increase the upper age limit as a “one-time waiver.” Because of Covid there has been no recruitment in the army for two years. Air Force will begin the recruitment on June 24. The aim of the scheme was to reduce the age of profile of armed forces from 32 years to around 25 and modernize the forces, according to Admiral R Hari Kumar, Chief of Naval Staff. “The idea is to increase the representation of the armed forces. We want to recruit from all parts of the country. The scheme will allow us to recruit more soldiers,” he said.