Agnipath: Protests, arson continue for second day despite relaxations by Centre

On Saturday, fresh multicity protests were witnessed against the Central government’s new Army recruitment programme – the Agnipath scheme. Demanding the complete rollback of the scheme, scores of youth gathered in Kerala’s Thiruvananthapuram to hold a sit-in protest and raised slogans such as ‘We need justice’. Furthermore, the misinformed and aggressive protests continued in cities like Jaunpur, Siliguri, Arrah, and more where incidents of violence, arson, vandalism and stone-pelting were reported for the second consecutive day.

However, it is pertinent to note that the protests come after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Saturday announced its decision to reserve 10% vacancies for recruitment in CAPFs and Assam Rifles for Agniveers.

It is pertinent to mention here that Congress on Saturday announced that it will hold ‘Satyagraha’ on June 19 in solidarity with the youth protesting against the Agnipath scheme. All Parliamentarians, Congress Working Committee (CWC) members, and AICC office bearers will partake in the agitation in Delhi, it said. The party claims that the scheme, aimed at recruiting youth into the armed forces for a period of four years, might be ‘penny-wise’ but ‘security foolish.’ In a press conference on Thursday, Congress stated the new programme was controversial, poses multiple risks, submerges the long-standing tradition of the Army and does not guarantee better training.

Protests against Agnipath

On Friday, incidents of violence, vandalism, torching of railway trains,  stone-pelting, and attacks on police personnel were seen in several parts of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, and Telangana.

Agitations transcended to several districts in Bihar as youths protested by lying down on railway tracks and blocking roads, demanding the scrapping of the Agnipath scheme. Huge crowds gathered in the Bihar’s Chhapra, Jehanabad, Munger, and Nawada, demanding the withdrawal of the Agnipath programme. A group of protestors at Bhabua Road Railway Station blocked the tracks before setting a train on fire.

A similar protest against the scheme was witnessed in Uttar Pradesh’s Balia, where a huge mob vandalized a train at the Ballia Railway Station. A train at Secunderabad Railway Station was also torched by angry protestors in Telangana. Protesters also gathered at several railway stations where they burnt the train coaches, damaged cycles, benches, bikes, stalls, and later threw them on the railway tracks blocking and disrupting services.  

Agnipath is a pan-India short-term service youth recruitment scheme for the Armed Forces. Those inducted into the service will be called ‘Agniveers’ and will be employed for four years where rigorous military training will be imparted to them. The age group for eligibility under the scheme is 17.5 to 21 years (23 years, as a one-off exception for the year 2022). The starting annual package will be Rs 4.76 lakh, which can be increased to 6.92 lakh by the end of the service. 

(Image: Republic/PTI)

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