Widespread violent protests against Agnipath recruitment scheme to armed forces

Our Bureau | | Updated on: Jun 16, 2022
Smoke billows from a train set on fire by protesters against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme at Chapra railway station, in Saran district, Bihar, on Thursday

Smoke billows from a train set on fire by protesters against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme at Chapra railway station, in Saran district, Bihar, on Thursday | Photo Credit: PTI

Opinion divided among army veterans, the more vociferous view is against the radical scheme

Protests broke out in different parts of the country, in Bihar, western Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan and a couple of other provinces on Thursday against the Centre’s radical Agnipath scheme for recruiting to armed forces non-officer cadres on four-year contractual basis.

Apart from protests from the prospective aspirants, a number of army veterans, associations of jawans and politicians attacked the scheme that envisages inducting the recruits, Agniveers, in the tri-services.

Purists among the army veterans believe that the scheme will compromise on regimental ethos and battle supremacy preparedness which ad hocAgniveers devoid of pension benefits cannot deliver. Retired Major General Yash Mor felt forces can’t be looked from cost-benefit analysis. “Military life and career can’t be evaluated from money saved to the exchequer,” Yash Mor tweeted

Veterans upset

BS Dhanoa, another retired Major General, too expressed his reservation on the scheme but suggested in his social media post that “Two serious recommendations to the just-announced recruitment policy for the armed forces; a. Increase the service period of new recruits to a min of seven years, b. Make the retention of those keen to serve longer at least 50 percent.”

However, this was not the unanimous view.

Major General Ashok Kumar Upadhyay, who writes on military issues, said it will turn out to be a “game changer” for India and bring youth into the defence forces.  

Social problems

In the debate on the efficacy of the Agnipath scheme, politicians also came down heavily on the central government. BJP MP Varun Gandhi, who has been sidelined by the party for his open rant against government schemes and ruling party stand, wrote to the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh expressing his reservations. Given that 75 percent of Agniveers will return to society “unemployed” without any pension after four years, it will lead to disaffection among the youth of the country.

Samajwadi Party president Akhilesh Yadav also hit out at the centre, saying that the country’s security is not a “short-term or informal issue” and cautioned the government that Agnipath se path par agni na ho (Agnipath should not set the path on fire).

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had unveiled the Agnipath scheme on Tuesday after consultations with stakeholders. In the first year, the government is supposed to hire 45,000 new recruits. They would get starting salary of Rs 30,000 which would be increased to Rs 40,000 towards the fourth year. Besides, they would be entitled to medical and insurance while in service and would get Rs 11.71 lakh after getting out of the job. Other post-service benefits have also been worked out by the government for their absorption in central armed police forces and elsewhere.

Reports coming different parts of the country point out to large scale protests took place mainly in Jehanabad, Buxar, Nawada and Arrah areas of Bihar, with aspirants questioning Agniveers will eat into space for regular appointments for which, they said, they try for months and years. The absence of pension in the pay and perks package was another major issue flagged by them.

Agitators disrupted railways, road traffic, damaged buses and stopped traffic demanding roll back of the scheme. Train movements on Patna-Gaya and Patna-Buxar among other routes were hit. At Kaimur Bhabua railway station of Bihar, protesters set on fire the Intercity Express and ransacked the platform. Police had to fire teargas shells to disperse the crowd.

Over 150 persons blocked the Ajmer-Delhi route, said Banwari Meena, the SHO of Kardhani police station of Jaipur.

Published on June 16, 2022
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