Agnipath Protests Continue Across States; Recruitment to Begin Soon, Says Defence Minister

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One person was reportedly killed, while eight others were critically injured after the Telangana Police allegedly opened fire to control an angry mob that went berserk at the Secunderabad railway

Team Clarion

NEW DELHI — Amid protests against Army recruitment through Agnipath scheme spreading to more states and at places it is taking violent turn causing damage to public properties and railway tracks, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday said the recruitment into the military through the Agnipath scheme will begin soon. He advised the aspirants to begin their preparations.

Calling the scheme a ‘golden opportunity’ to join the nation’s defence system and to serve the country, Singh thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for allowing age waiver for the first batch to be recruited through the scheme.

However, the Defence Minister’s comment comes amid the protests against the Agnipath scheme which started in Bihar and has spread to several states. The protests against Agnipath continued for the third day in seven states, including the national capital.

“Agnipath is a golden opportunity for the youth to join the defence system and serve the country. As the recruitment was stalled for the last two years, many were deprived of the opportunity to join the army,” Rajnath Singh tweeted.

Meanwhile, protests against Agnipath scheme intensified in Bihar’s several districts on Friday with the agitators damaging the Railways properties and targeting the BJP leaders.

The agitators attacked BJP MLA Vinay Bihari and vandalised his Mahindra Bolero SUV. He was on the way from Lauria to his native place. The house of Sanjay Jaiswal, the BJP state president in Bettiah city was also attacked by protesters.

The other BJP leaders include deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi and BJP MLA Birendra Yadav whose houses came under attack of protesters, according to reports.

Keeping in view the violent protests, a majority of the family members of the BJP MLAs in the affected districts are reported to have taken shelter in the houses of neighbours and relatives.

In national capital, several students along with the members of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and AAP’s Chatr-Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS) on Friday staged a protest over the Central government’s ‘Agnipath’ scheme for recruitment in the armed forces and demanded its rollback, reports IANS.

As the number of protesters kept rising on the road in between the old Delhi Police headquarters and the Gate No 5 of the ITO Delhi Metro Station, the security personnel, including CRPF, removed the protesters from the site. Several protesters were detained by the Delhi Police.

AISA National President N. Sai Balaji said the government cannot silence voices protesting against a policy that will dilute security of India and professionalism of the Defence forces. “Agnipath will destroy lives of youth who will be hired through contractualisation in Defence forces,” he said, according to the report.

In Uttar Pradesh, protests against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme have spread to several districts. Bulandshahr, Meerut, Agra, Mathura, Varanasi, Unnao, Gorakhpur, Gonda, Rae Bareli and Ballia are among the districts that have witnessed protests, with youth demanding the scheme’s withdrawal, according to media reports

In several districts, the police had to resort to lathi charge and fire teargas shells to disperse the mob. Ballia was the worst affected district since protesters set bogies of the Sealdah Express on fire, vandalised railway property and then attacked shops and kiosks outside the station.

In Gurugram, the district administration on Friday imposed Section 144 CrPC as a precautionary measure to maintain law & order in he wake of violent protest against Agnipath. Demonstration was reported in Gurugram’s Farrukhnagar Road in Chandu and Pataudi Road on Friday morning.

In Odisha’s Cuttack city, the agitators blocked roads and had a face-off with the police on Friday.  Job aspirants staged an agitation before the army recruiting office at the Cantonment Road in Cuttack, police said.

In Hyderabad, one person was killed, while eight others were critically injured after the Telangana Police allegedly opened fire to control an angry mob that went berserk at the Secunderabad railway station in protest against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme.

The protesters also indulged in stone pelting and set afire a couple of bogies of a train, besides damaging other properties of the railways.

Metro Rail and MMTS train services were also suspended in Hyderabad following violence at Secunderabad railway station on Friday.

The Agnipath scheme was announced on June 14 to recruit jawans into the Army, Navy and the Air Force for a four-year period followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits. (With inputs from IANS)

The members of All India Students’ Association (AISA) and AAP’s Chatr-Yuva Sangharsh Samiti (CYSS) on Friday staged a protest over the Central government’s ‘Agnipath’ scheme at ITO in New Delhi.
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