One person was killed in police firing in Secunderabad, the first casualty of protests against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme that raged through several states for the third day on Friday with trains torched, public property vandalised and many thousands blocking tracks and highways.
At least 200 trains were affected, 35 cancelled and 13 short-terminated, railway officials said.
As angry crowds, some armed with brickbats and stones, fanned out across large parts of India, from Uttar Pradesh to Telangana and Bihar to Madhya Pradesh, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Army chief Gen. Manoj Pande were among those who stepped in to assuage concerns.
A mob attacked the home of BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi in Patna.
The Army chief said the government’s decision to raise the upper age limit to 23 years from 21 under the scheme in 2022 will provide an opportunity to youths who were preparing to join the force but couldn’t in the last two years.
The Centre’s decision to increase the upper age limit will benefit a large number of youth, Mr. Shah said. He added that the recruitment process in the Army had been affected for the last two years due to the Covid pandemic and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a sensitive decision by showing concern for the youth of the country.
Amid the protests, the Union government on Thursday increased the upper age limit to 23 from 21 for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme for the year 2022.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday announced the “Agnipath” scheme, as approved by the Union Cabinet, for the recruitment of youth in the armed forces for four years. The process of recruitment will commence in 90 days with a planned intake of about 46,000 young men and women this year.
Youth recruited in the armed forces under the short-term ‘Agnipath’ scheme will get priority in recruitment to the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) and Assam Rifles, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) announced on Wednesday.
Here are the latest updates
Army to begin recruitment process in two days, Air Force from June 24
The Army will formally kick-start the process for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme within two days by coming out with an initial notification for the enrolment, senior military officials said on Friday.
The selection process by the Indian Air Force will start from June 24, Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari said.
After issuance of the initial notification, various agencies and establishments of the Army will subsequently come out with details of the induction process such as the number of vacancies, location of recruitment rallies and test schedules, the military officials said. The officials said the Army has set its target of starting the training of new recruits under the Agnipath scheme by December.
They said the plan is to deploy the initial batches of recruits under the new scheme in operational and non-operational roles by around June next year.
Protests continue against Agnipath scheme in Rajasthan
Protests against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme for recruitment in defence services continued across Rajasthan on Friday with protesters holding demonstrations, taking out rallies, blocking railway tracks and damaging public property.
In Bharatpur, hundreds of youths blocked the Agra-Bandikui railway track. Wearing masks, some of them pelted stones at police personnel due to which police resorted to firing tear gas shells to disperse the mob.
“Stones were pelted at policemen. One policeman was injured. We had to fire tear gas shells to disperse the mob. Situation is now under control,” Bharatpur Superintendent of Police Shyam Singh said.
Protests were also held in Jaipur, Sikar, Kota, Chittorgarh and Alwar districts.-PTI
Chhattisgarh CM slams 'Agnipath' scheme; says Centre playing with nation's security, future of youths
Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Friday questioned the BJP-led Union government's intention in rolling out the 'Agnipath' scheme for military recruitment and asked why it was playing with the security of the country and the future of the youth.
Demanding immediate withdrawal of the policy, the CM said youths, trained in weapons, could indulge in criminal activities when they become jobless after completion of their four-year tenure as part of the scheme.
Rail services disrupted on Sealdah-Bangaon route
Train services on the Sealdah-Bangaon route in West Bengal's North 24 Parganas district were disrupted for a brief period on Friday morning as a group of students held a demonstration on railway tracks protesting against the Centre's newly introduced 'Agnipath' scheme for recruitment in defence services, officials said.
Around 50-60 students blocked the tracks at Thakurnagar station from 7.50 a.m. to 9.15 a.m., an Eastern Railway official said, adding that trains services now are normal. - PTI
Protesters set empty bogey on fire in Ballia
Raising slogans Bharat Mata ki Jai and Agnipath Vapas Lo, youths protesting against the Centre’s new scheme to recruit soldiers on Friday set a bogey of an empty train on fire and vandalised some other trains, prompting the police to lathicharge them.
Officials said the protesters also erected barriers on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway to stop buses and pelted stones at them while the traffic also briefly came to a standstill on the Yamuna Expressway near Noida.
Protests also erupted in Varanasi, Firozabad and Amethi, causing damage to government buses among others.
Bihar deputy CM’s house attacked
Protests against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme grew more virulent on Friday in Bihar, where a mob attacked the house of Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi, besides causing heavy damage to railway property and affecting normal life in a number of districts.
“The large-scale violence and arson is a handiwork of goons instigated by the opposition parties. What else explains targeted attacks on BJP leaders? My house in Bettiah town was attacked. Window panes and a car parked inside got damaged. Thankfully, none of those inside was injured. Petrol pump owned by a brother of Sanjay Jaiswal (state party president) has also been vandalised,” Renu Devi told PTI.
One dead, 13 injured at Secunderabad protests
One protestor lost his life while 13 more were injured following violence at the Secunderabad railway station on Friday. “Of the 13, surgery is taken up on two people. One has suffered from fracture,” confirmed Gandhi Hospital authorities.
Six train coaches damaged in Secunderabad
Abhay Kumar, Divisional Railway Manager, Secunderabad Division, said that six train coaches were damaged and that negotations with protestors are underway. Evaluation of losses is yet to obtained. The DRM inspected the railway station with other officials. - Syed Mohammedd
Railways says 200 train affected, 35 cancelled so far
More than 200 trains have been affected so far due to the protests against the Agnipath scheme for recruitment in the armed forces, the Railways said Friday.
Around 35 trains have been cancelled while 13 short-terminated since the protests erupted on Wednesday, the national carrier said.
The worst-hit East Central Railways - which covers Bihar, Jharkhand and parts of Uttar Pradesh, the States which have witnessed widespread protests - has also decided to "monitor" the operations of eight trains due to the agitations. - PTI
ITO metro station gates closed as AISA protests against Agnipath
All gates of the Delhi Metro’s ITO station are closed, the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation said Friday as members of the Left-affiliated All India Students’ Association [AISA] protested against the Agnipath scheme and demanded its rollback.
“All gates of ITO Metro Station are closed,” the DMRC tweeted around 12.40 pm as the protest escalated and some members of the student organisation were detained. - PTI
Protests turn violent in Indore
Protests over the Centre's Agnipath recruitment scheme turned violent in Madhya Pradesh's Indore on Friday morning after protesters gathered near a railway station in the city and hurled stones, forcing the authorities to either stop or cancel some trains and also prompting the police to lob teargas shells to control the situation, officials said.
Two policemen suffered minor injuries in the incident, they said, adding that around 15 protesters were arrested. - PTI
Hyderabad Metro Rail operation suspended
“Passengers are informed that due to some disturbance in the city, all operations in all three lines of Hyderabad Metro Rail stand suspended till further notice. Passengers are advised to take care and make arrangements,” tweeted L&T Hyderabad Metro Rail on Friday.
One-time age waiver for ‘Agnipath’ shows Centre cares for youth: Rajnath Singh
Speaking on the government’s decision for a one-time waiver on the age relaxation for the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, “The relaxation of age for the recruitment process though Agnipath scheme for 2022 to 23 years indicates that the Government cares for our youth.”
“Department of Military Affairs, MoD and Services are committed to commence the recruitment process at the earliest, we invite youth of our country to join Indian Armed Forces and serve the Nation through Agnipath,” the defence minister added. - Dinakar Peri
Protests at Secunderabad railway station
The protest against the 'Agnipath' scheme relating to recruitment in the armed forces continued on Friday as police fired in the air to disperse protesters who went on the rampage at Secunderabad Railway station.
According to a senior official of South Central Railway, the agitators set on fire some coaches of three passenger trains and none of the passengers was hurt in the incidents.
Section 144 in Gurugram
Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Criminal Procedure Code imposed in Haryana's Gurugram on Friday in view of protests against 'Agnipath' scheme across the State.
The orders prohibit gathering of more than four persons in the district. - The Hindu Bureau
Army aspirants protest in Secunderabad
Army aspirant Vinod from Telangana’s Mahbubnagar was one of the protestors. He says he has given exams twice and has not been called yet. “At least 2,800 people have blocked Secunderabad railway station. Cancelling the exam will ruin our career, please allow us to sit for the exam,” said the young protestor. - The Hindu Bureau
At least 20 bogies of two trains set ablaze in Bihar
Protests against the Center’s 'Agnipath' recruitment scheme intensified in Bihar on Friday as angry aspirants set fire to at least 20 bogies of the New Delhi-Bhagalpur Vikramshila Express and New Delhi-Darbhanga Bihar Sampark Kranti Express at Lakhisarai and Samastipur stations and blocked highways in the State.
The demonstrators blocked highways at several places in Buxar, Bhagalpur and Samastipur and burnt tyres as a mark of protest, officials said.
The protests, which is into its third day in the state, caused massive disruption of railway services at Buxar and Kahalgaon, officials of East Central Railways said. - PTI
Increasing upper age limit for Agnipath will create opportunity for youth: Gen. Manoj Pande
The government's decision to increase the upper age limit to 23 from 21 for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme for the year 2022, will provide an opportunity for many of our young, energetic and patriotic, said Chief of the Army Staff Gen. Manoj Pande on Friday.
The schedule of recruitment process will be announced shortly. We call upon our youth to avail this opportunity for joining the Indian Army as Agniveers, he added. - Dinakar Peri
Farmer leader Gurnam Singh Charuni holds hunger strike
Bhartiya Kisan Union (Charuni) leader Gurnam Singh Charuni holds day-long hunger strike outside BJP office in Haryana’s Rohtak against Agnipath scheme on Friday. The BKU leader will soon announce future strategy to protest against the scheme.
Protests over Agnipath scheme erupted in West Bengal
On Friday, protesting youth blocked railway tracks at Thakurnagar Railway Station in State’s North 24 Parganas district.
Protests in Telangana over the Agnipath scheme
Large-scale violence against the Agnipath scheme breaks out at Secunderabad railway station, with some aspirants damaging railway property. Two bogies were set on fire. Protesters continue to set fire to stationary coaches and booking parcel items. Food stalls were ransacked, and CCTV cameras damaged.
All train movements have been stopped by the railway authorities, and additional security forces have been rushed to control the mob. -The Hindu Bureau
Mobile internet, SMS suspended in Faridabad’s Ballabgarh
Following violent protests in Palwal against the Agnipath scheme, the Haryana government has suspended mobile internet and SMS services for 24 hours in the Ballabhgarh area of Faridabad district as a precautionary measure. - PTI
Protesters set empty train on fire, vandalise railway station in UP's Ballia
Raising slogans 'Bharat Mata ki Jai' and 'Agnipath Vapas Lo', youths protesting against the Centre's new scheme to recruit soldiers on Friday set an empty train on fire and vandalised a few other trains in Ballia, prompting the police to lathicharge them.
Police sources said that the protesters gathered at the Veeri Lork Stadium here and then marched to the Ballia railway station.
A video of the youths raising the slogans and vandalising the Ballia-Varanasi Memu and Ballia-Shahganj trains has gone viral. -PTI
Haryana youths protest against the Agnipath scheme
Protesting against the Agnipath scheme, youths in Haryana’s Jind sat on tracks at Narwana railway station blocking the movement of trains. Protesters also blocked traffic near bus stand. -The Hindu Bureau
Priyanka, Rahul on Agnipath protests
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra Friday attacked the government over the Agnipath scheme, saying the BJP dispensation requiring to amend rules under the scheme soon after its announcement indicates it was imposed on the youth in “haste”, and demanded its immediate withdrawal. -PTI
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi on Friday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not understand what the people of the country want as he cannot hear anything except the voice of his “friends”.
Features of the Agnipath scheme
As part of the Agnipath scheme, selected candidates will be enrolled under the respective Service Acts for four years. Those between the ages 17.5 and 21 years will be eligible to apply. Candidates below 18 years of age will have to get their enrolment forms signed by their parents or guardians. Medical and physical fitness standards will continue in accordance with existing norms for different categories and trades in the military.
Agniveers will undergo military training in existing training centres as per the requirements of the service they join and the role they are assigned.
Concerns over Agnipath scheme
The Defence Ministry has maintained that the scheme has been designed to enable a “youthful profile” of the armed forces. In a statement, the Ministry said, “The scheme will enhance the youthful profile of the armed forces and provide a fresh lease of ‘Josh’ and ‘Jazba’,” whilst bringing about a transformational shift towards more tech-savvy armed forces which it said is the need of the hour.
Several defence experts, however, have raised concern over the Agnipath model and the future of Agniveers, asking the Government to fix gaps, which could have an adverse impact on the capabilities of the defence services.