Agnipath Bharat Bandh live updates | Army issues notification for Agniveer recruitment rally; Centre stands firm on roll-out

Here are the latest developments from the ongoing protests against the Agnipath scheme from across the country

Updated - June 20, 2022 06:26 pm IST

Published - June 20, 2022 10:16 am IST

Security personnel keep vigil at Hatia Railway Station amid Bharat Bandh, called to protest against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme, in Ranchi, on Monday, June 20, 2022.

Security personnel keep vigil at Hatia Railway Station amid Bharat Bandh, called to protest against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme, in Ranchi, on Monday, June 20, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Despite the Centre's steps to assuage concerns and police arresting hundreds of people for the violence, there was no let-up in the anti-Agnipath protests. Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla chaired a meeting of Directors-General of Police and Chief Secretaries of all States on Sunday in view of the violence over the Agnipath scheme and the Bharat bandh call for Monday.

It is not clear which organisation had announced the country-wide protest but the police in several areas imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, prohibiting gatherings of more than four people at a time based on social media posts.

Explained | The Agnipath scheme for armed forces

Several students’ organisations, including CPI-ML (Liberation)-linked AISA, had called a State-wide bandh in Bihar on June 18. The opposition Grand Alliance’s spearhead RJD extended support to the bandh. Protests erupted in several States on June 16 against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme for recruitment of soldiers between 17.5 and 21 years of age across the three services for a four-year period followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.

The Centre on June 18 announced several incentives including a 10% reservation in vacancies in the defence ministry and paramilitary forces for Agnipath retirees as it tried to defuse the violent protests that raged on against the new military recruitment scheme in many States and the opposition parties stepped up pressure for a rollback.

Here are the latest updates

17:05 | Jharkhand

5000 security personnel deployed, schools closed

More than 5000 security personnel were deployed in Jharkhand and schools remained shut across the state on Monday in view of the nationwide protests demanding roll back of the contentious ‘Agnipath’ scheme for recruitment in the Armed Forces, officials said. -PTI

17:00 | Jammu

Protests against ‘Agnipath’ hit Jammu city, several detained

Protests against ‘Agnipath’ rocked Jammu city on Monday with the Congress, the AAP and some other organisations demanding the government to revoke the military recruitment scheme, prompting police to detain several members for blocking highways, officials said. -PTI

17:00 | Data

With 34 lakh military pensioners, pensions form >50% of defence budget

More than half the defence budget is allocated for pensions every year while less than 5% is allocated for research and development.

Over 70% of the defence budget is being used for revenue expenditure (operating expenses), while only about 30% is spent on capital expenditure, meant for the modernisation of the forces.

16:40 PM | Railways

India calls off more than 500 trains as more Agnipath protests loom over

Authorities in India cancelled more than 500 trains services on Monday because of calls for protests by young men angry with a military recruitment plan that they say will rob them of the opportunity of a career in the armed forces.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government last week unveiled the plan called Agnipath, or “path of fire”, aimed at bringing more people into the military on short, four-year contracts to lower the average age of India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces.

16:45 | New Delhi

Is Agnipath not an insult to late General Bipin Rawat and his proposal to increase retirement age: Congress

The Congress cited late General Bipin Rawat, India’s first chief of defence staff, and his proposal to raise soldiers and officers’ retirement age to ask if the new Agnipath scheme was not an insult to his ideas.

Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken said that General Rawat had advocated raising the retirement age of soldiers to 58 years.

“A circular dated October 2020 of the time of late CDS General Bipan Rawat is there and also his interview where he says soldiers retire after 17 years, but their retirement age should be raised to 58 years. He says raising this age will help jawans serve the country better. Is Agnipath not an insult to the thoughts of General Rawat?” he asked.

“When General Bipin Rawat is saying this, and no one is more qualified than him, are all service chiefs going against the approach of General Rawat?” he added. The Congress pointed out that the BJP-led government “wants to retire soldiers after four years.”

“This is shameful. At least do not insult the CDS, his thought and approach, Mr Ajay said. - PTI

15:55 | New Delhi

Congress leader makes inflammatory remarks about Modi

Former Union minister and Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahai said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was behaving like Adolf Hitler and “will die like Hitler” if he follows the path of the German dictator. The remarks were made at the party’s Satyagraha protest against the Agnipath scheme, held at the Jantar Mantar.

“This is a government of looters. Modi is acting like a ringmaster and has adopted the role of a dictator,” he said.

“I feel he has even surpassed Hitler. Hitler had also created an organisation called ‘Khaki’ from within the army. If Modi follows Hitler’s path, he will die like Hitler, remember this,” he said.

The Congress, however, distanced itself from the statement made at the party’s ‘Satyagraha’ protest at Jantar Mantar here against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme, saying it does not endorse any indecent remarks against the prime minister.

Congress general secretary, communications, Jairam Ramesh said in a tweet in Hindi that the Congress will continuously fight the Modi government’s dictatorial mindset and anti-people policies.

“But it does not endorse any indecent remarks against the prime minister,” Ramesh said, adding that the party’s struggle will continue as per Gandhian principles. - PTI

15:45 |

SP, BSP criticize Agnipath

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati and Samajwadi Party’s head Akhilesh Yadav also opposed the Agnipath scheme, saying that the scheme was introduced in a haste.

Tweeting in Hindi, Mayawati wrote that the new ‘Agnipath‘ scheme has “taken the country by surprise and is being implemented in haste like ‘notebandi’ (demonetisation) and ‘taalaabandi’ (lockdown), which affected crores of youths and their families, and there is anger among them. The government should avoid having an arrogant attitude.” The “unrestrained statements” by the BJP leaders and the “narrow politics” of spreading confusion among the people and creating difficulties for the army should immediately end, she said in another tweet.

Akhilesh Yadav also condemned the scheme in a series of tweets in Hindi.

“The youths are feeling disappointed and there is a feeling of fear and insecurity towards their future. This will prove to be fatal for the country’s development. The responsibility of the government is to improve the present and shape up the country’s future. The opposition to the BJP from all sides shows it has lost its support base.”

In another tweet, he wrote that since the policy has been made by the government “ the government and the ruling party spokespersons should not push forward (anybody else to endorse the scheme). The safety of the country is more important than the safety of the income of industrialists. Hence, if there is a shortfall in the budget, the government should impose additional taxes on the corporate sector, but should not compromise with the security of the country.” - PTI

15:30 | Hyderabad

Telangana Minister objects to BJP leader remarks on hiring Agniveers as security guards

Telangana Minister for IT and Industries and TRS working president K T Rama Rao criticized the BJP for comments by party leaders indicating that those who have served as ‘Agniveer’ soldiers can be recruited as ‘security guards’.

BJP National General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya reportedly said that if he has to engage professionals to arrange security at the party office, he would give priority to those who served as ‘Agniveer’ soldiers. Union Minister G Kishan Reddy had reportedly said that those recruited under ‘Agnipath‘ scheme would be trained with the skills of drivers, electricians, washermen, barbers and other professionals.

Rama Rao questioned the remarks in a tweet, saying “Yet another bright BJP leader says he will employ #Agniveers as security guards!” “And you blame the youth that they don’t understand you Modi ji?”- PTI

15:15 | Vishakhapatnam

Maoist Central Committee condemns scheme

The Central Committee of the banned CPI (Maoist) has condemned the ‘Agnipath’ programme.

Releasing a letter dated June 18, the spokesperson of the Central Committee, Abhay, termed the scheme as undemocratic, unconstitutional and a programme to militarise civil society. The Maoist spokesperson alleged that the scheme was anti-people and pro-imperialist and was designed to satisfy the conditions of the World Bank and IMF to cut down government expenditure on wages and pensions.

They have alleged that 75 per cent of the recruits who would come out with a severance package of about ₹11.7 lakhs after four years, will act as SPOs, as many states have agreed to give them preference into the police force.

The Maoists also condemned the way the agitation against the scheme was being suppressed by the government, expressing solidarity for a youth killed in Secunderabad during the protests.

15:00 | New Delhi

Service chiefs being fronted to defend govt. decision: Rajya Sabha Opposition Leader

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge questioned the Centre’s ‘Agnipath‘ scheme on Twitter, saying that for the first time in 75 years, service chiefs are being fronted to defend a policy decision taken by the government.

A briefing by the three services was held at the Defence Ministry soon after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh led a meeting with the chiefs of the Army, Navy and Air Force for the second day in a row. - PTI

14:30 PM | New Delhi

Traffic clogs up Delhi-Gurugram Expressway following Bharat Bandh protests

The Delhi-Gurugram Expressway is experiencing a heavy traffic jam following the call for Bharat Bandh against the Agnipath scheme. 

Delhi Police has been inspecting every vehicle before its entry into the capital, to prevent worsening of the law and order situation. This has lead to a huge traffic jam near the Sirhaul border, starting from 8:30 am and only worsening during the peak hours. 

Deputy Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Ravinder Singh Tomar has said that the situation is “under control” and the local traffic police are managing the situation.

“There is congestion owing to vehicle checking near Sirhaul border. We are managing the situation,” Tomar said.

The police had issued a traffic advisory on Monday morning about the traffic congestion near the Sirhaul border, asking commuters to use alternate routes such as those via the Mehrauli-Gurugram road, Faridabad or KMP. - PTI

14:15 PM |

Agniveer recruitment rally notice issued

The Indian Army has issued a notification about its Agniveer recruitment rally. Registrations are set to open from July 22 onwards. All three branches of the armed forces — Army, Navy and Air Forces — will be enrolling candidates under the Agnipath scheme.

Per the notification, soldiers will be enrolling for a period of 4 years and are subject to the provisions of the Army Act, 1950. Those enrolled under this scheme will not be eligible for pension or gratuity. Post their service, they will be paid a Seva Nidhi package to facilitate their return to society and employment in other fields.

Agniveers will form a rank in the Indian Army, distinct from other ranks already existing in the Army. They will be required to undergo prescribed medical-check ups as well as physical, written or other tests. Their performance in these tests may be considered for offers to enrol in the regular cadre.

13:00 PM | West Bengal

BJP trying to create own cadre base: CM Mamata

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Monday slammed the BJP-led central government over the Agnipath scheme, alleging that the saffron camp was trying to create its own “armed” cadre base through the new defence recruitment programme.

Terming the scheme as an insult to the armed forces, Ms. Banerjee also wondered whether the BJP plans to hire ‘Agniveer’ soldiers as “watchmen” at its party offices, after their four-year service period.

“The BJP is trying to create its own armed cadre base through this scheme. What will they do after four years? The party wants to give arms into the hands of the youth,” the TMC boss said in the Assembly. - PTI

12:50 PM | Haryana

Aspirants block roads in parts of Haryana; security stepped up

More protests were witnessed in parts of Haryana on Monday against Agnipath as armed forces aspirants blocked roads and demanded that the scheme be rolled back. In Fatehabad, a group of youth blocked the Lal Batti Chowk, while several others staged a protest on roads in Rohtak district.

Amid continuing protests in Haryana and Punjab against the scheme, security has been stepped up at key installations in the two States, officials said. - PTI

12:40 PM | New Delhi

Youth Congress workers stop train near Connaught Place, several detained

Indian Youth Congress workers on Monday stopped a train at the Shivaji Bridge railway station near Connaught Place in the national capital to push for their demand for a rollback of the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme.

The track was cleared by police and security personnel and train movement resumed after about half an hour, sources said. Several protesters were detained as police personnel tried to remove them from the tracks and the station, a senior police official added.

“The government needs to rollback the Agniveer scheme. Youth Congress will fight for the unemployed youth this country who want to serve the country,” Youth Congress president Srinivas B.V. told reporters. IYC members also staged protests at nearby Connaught Place. - PTI


Agnipath, a fire that could singe India

It was on September 15, 2013 that Narendra Modi addressed an ex-servicemen rally at Rewari, Haryana as the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate, where he vociferously supported the demand of ‘One Rank One Pension’ (OROP) for all soldiers. Mr. Modi was then campaigning in poetry, and nine years later, as the Agnipath scheme for recruitment of short-term contracted soldiers was announced, he has been forced to contend with the reality of governing in prose. However hard the Government may try to obfuscate, the driving factor for this U-turn — from ‘One Rank One Pension’ to ‘No Rank No Pension’ — is economics.

TH Explains

Explained | Why is Agnipath under widespread attack? 

Agnipath or Tour of Duty will be the only mode of recruitment of soldiers, sailors, and airmen from now on. It envisages enlisting youths aged between 17.5 years and 21 years — the upper limit has been extended to 23 years this year after protests — for a period of just four years, also counting their training time. At the expiry of their contract, only 25% of these soldiers, to be known as Agniveers, will be re-enlisted for regular military service.

11:00 AM |

Large potential for employment of Agniveers in corporate sector: Mahindra

Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra on June 20 expressed dismay over the violence against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme while asserting that the farm equipment to aerospace conglomerate welcomes the opportunity to recruit trained, capable and young people under the programme.

Expressing his opinion on the scheme to recruit youths between the age of 17 and-a-half and 23 years for a four-year tenure in defence services amid widespread violence across States against it, he said there is a large potential for employment of “Agniveers” in the corporate sector.

10:10 AM | Delhi

Traffic in central Delhi to be affected due to Congress protest

Traffic in parts of central Delhi will be affected on June 20 due to the Congress’ protest against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme and “vendetta politics” against Rahul Gandhi, according to traffic police.

Mr. Gandhi is being questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) in the National Herald money laundering case and will appear before the agency for the fourth time on Monday. - PTI

10:00 AM | Noida

CrPC 144 already imposed, don’t violate law: Noida cops warn ahead of proposed Bharat Bandh

Youngsters raise slogans during a protest against the Agnipath scheme, in Meerut, on Thursday, June 16, 2022.

Youngsters raise slogans during a protest against the Agnipath scheme, in Meerut, on Thursday, June 16, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

Amid a call for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on June 20 over the Agnipath scheme, the Gautam Buddh Nagar police on Sunday reiterated that CrPC section 144 is imposed in the district and asked people to not engage in any activity which disrupts law and order.

The police’s appeal came even as a group of ex-servicemen submitted a memorandum with authorities demanding strict against “anti-social” elements involved in the violence during protests against Centre’s new scheme for recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy and Air Force.

So far, 225 people have been booked and 15 arrested in connection with the violent protest at the Jewar toll plaza on the Yamuna Expressway in Greater Noida on Friday. - PTI

10:00 AM |

Agniveers to have rank and insignia distinct from existing ranks

Agniveers recruited under the Agnipath scheme would form a distinct rank different from any other existing rank and also sport distinctive insignia on their uniform, according to the Terms and Conditions of the scheme. The Indian Air Force (IAF), in a detailed brief, ‘Agnipath scheme for enrolment in armed forces’ said Agnipath is a “new HR (Human Resource) Management scheme” for the armed forces.

10:00 AM |

Centre bans 35 WhatsApp groups for spreading fake news on Agnipath scheme

As many as 35 WhatsApp groups that were allegedly spreading fake news about the Agnipath military recruitment scheme were on Sunday banned by the government, officials said.

The move came amid violent protests against the scheme in different parts of the country since it was announced a few days ago.


Agnipath is first step to outsource Indian Army: Congress leaders

Demanding rollback of the Agnipath scheme, Telangana Congress held a day-long deeksha at Gandhi Bhavan on Sunday.

The deeksha was addressed by Sangareddy legislator T. Jayaprakash Reddy, Manthani MLA D. Sreedhar Babu, senior leaders J. Geetha Reddy, Mahesh Kumar Goud, V. Hanumantha Rao, G. Chinna Reddy, and Mallu Ravi, among others. They termed the new scheme as the first step to outsource the Army.

Bandh call

Home Secretary reviews law and order over bandh call

Union Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla chaired a meeting of Directors-General of Police and Chief Secretaries of all States on Sunday in view of the violence over the Agnipath scheme and the Bharat bandh call for Monday.

It is not clear which organisation had announced the country-wide protest to take place on Monday, but the police in several areas imposed Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, prohibiting gatherings of more than four people at a time based on social media posts.


BJP accuses Opposition of doing politics with national security after it opposes Agnipath

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday accused Opposition parties of doing politics on issues of national security as protests continued against the new short service scheme launched by the government for recruitment in the armed forces called “Agnipath”. On a day when the Congress held a protest against the scheme, the BJP made strong remarks against the support that the Opposition was extending to naysayers of the Agnipath scheme.


PM Modi forced youth to walk on Agnipath of unemployment: Rahul Gandhi

Amid widespread protests against the new military recruitment scheme, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on June 19 launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said by repeatedly giving false hope of jobs, he has forced the youth to walk on ‘Agnipath’ of unemployment.

He also said 16 crore jobs were to be given in eight years, but the youth only got knowledge on “frying pakoras”.

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