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Agnipath: 1 Dead in Secunderabad as Protests Intensify, Spread to Telangana, Odisha, MP

Newsclick/PTI |
Angry youth demand roll-back of scheme; rail bogeys buses burnt, several trains cancelled.

New Delhi: Protests by angry youth against the Agnipath scheme for recruitment into the Armed Forces intensified across the country, spreading to newer states like Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha, with violence claiming one life in Secunderabad, according to reports.

According to NDTV, one person died in Telangana's Secunderabad, as protests spread to the southern state after angry youth entered Secunderabad railway station. Police fired in the air to disperse protesters who went “on the rampage”, according to the police.       

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.

"There was an incident (of firing), to control them and some firing also happened," the official told PTI.

The agitators shouted slogans against the Centre demanding normal recruitment of army jobs, the SCR sources said.

Protests spread further on Thursday demanding that the Centre roll back the Agnipath scheme, that aims to provide youth an opportunity to serve in the Armed Forces as 'Agniveer' for a period of four years, including training period. After which only 25% of them would be absorbed.

UP: Several Trains Cancelled

Ballia/Firozabad/Varanasi: 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 here, prompting the police to lathi-charge.

The protests also compelled the Railways to cancel several trains and postpone some as a precautionary measure.

Officials said the protesters also erected barriers on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway to stop buses while the traffic also briefly came to a standstill on the Yamuna Expressway near Noida.

Protests also erupted in Varanasi, Firozabad and Amethi.

Police sources said that the protesters gathered at the Veer Lorik Stadium here and then marched to the Ballia railway station.

A video (not verified) of some youths raising slogans and vandalising the Ballia-Varanasi Memu and Ballia-Shahganj trains has gone viral.

District Magistrate Saumya Agarwal said, "Considering the possibility of youths protesting, police was deployed from the morning itself. Some unruly youths came and tried to pelt stones, but the administration did not allow them to succeed. One portion of Ballia railway station was vandalised. Action is being taken against the unruly elements."

Superintendent of Police Raj Karan Nayyar said that the youths are being persuaded to call off the protest and sent back.

"The incident has been videographed. So far, no arrests have been made," he said.

Scores of youngsters descended on Yamuna Expressway and blocked traffic movement briefly, officials said. The movement through Jewar toll plaza between Greater Noida and Mathura-Agra was blocked for around an hour from 12 pm, officials said.

In Varanasi, youths raised anti-government slogans at the Cantonment Railway Station.

Police Commissioner A Satish Ganesh, who visit the venue, said that an appeal has been made to those trying to take law into their own hands to maintain peace.

"If they do not follow (the appeal), then action as per the law will be taken against them," he said.

In Amethi too, youths staged a protest against the Agnipath scheme and blocked the Amethi-Durgapur road. Police and the district administration faced a tough time in removing the blockade. The Amethi-Pratapgarh road was also blocked, they said.

As protests snowballed, the North-Eastern Railways, North-Central Railways and Northern Railways cancelled some trains while they stopped few others.

About the empty train stationed at the washing pit in Ballia that was set afire, Public Relations Officer (PRO) of North-Eastern Railways Pankaj Singh told PTI that the fire was immediately controlled and there was no "major loss".

He added that in view of the protests by the youths, the North-Eastern Railway has cancelled 12 trains. These include Varanasi-Chhapra, Chhapra-Aurihar, Ballia-Varanasi, Azamgarh-Varanasi, Prayagraj Rambagh-Mau, Mau-Prayagraj Rambagh, Thave-Chhapra Kacheri, Chhapra-Varanasi, Thave-Masrakh, Masrakh-Thave, Varanasi-Ballia and Banaras-Patna Express.

Bihar: BJP Leaders ‘Attacked’

Patna: Protests against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme of recruitment in armed forces 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.

In Motihari, adjoining Bettiah, the car of BJP MLA Vinay Bihari was pelted with stones and while the legislator and his driver were not injured, the vehicle was badly damaged.

The attack on BJP leaders comes a day after the party's MLA Aruna Devi was injured in a stone-pelting incident at Nawada, where the party office was also torched by the rampaging mob.

The state capital, which had so far been largely untouched by the stir, witnessed some commotion as controversial former MP Rajesh Ranjan alias Pappu Yadav staged a demonstration on the Dak Bungalow crossing along with hundreds of supporters, causing huge traffic snarls.

 “It is natural for the youngsters to be outraged at the ‘Agnipath’ scheme. They do not join the armed forces, putting their lives at risk, to be kicked out after four years with no pensionary benefits,” Yadav told reporters.

The young protesters demonstrating in front of Patna University were even more vocal.

They also said if the government thought reducing pension bills in this manner was fair, "it should do away with pensions of MPs and MLAs and shorten their tenure to two years".

Odisha: Aspirants Block Roads After ‘Suicide’

Bhubaneswar: Protests against the Centre's Agnipath scheme spread to Odisha on Friday as hundreds of aspirants for recruitment in the Armed Forces blocked the arterial Ring Road in Cuttack and tore down hoardings in Cantonment area of the silver city.

Many among the protestors claimed to have already cleared physical fitness and medical tests for recruitment in the Army last year and were waiting to write the Common Entrance Examination (CEE).

The protests followed the death by suicide of a person who it is said cleared the physical fitness and medical tests during a recruitment drive by the Army and apprehended that it will be cancelled after the announcement of 'Agnipath'.

Police held lathi-charges to disperse the protestors and detained some of them, said Cuttack deputy commissioner of police, Pinak Mishra. 

Hundreds of young men gathered in front of the Army office in the Cantonment area on Friday morning and protested against the Centre's recruitment scheme for the Armed Forces. They vented their ire by burning tyres on the roads and raising slogans.

"Why is recruitment under Agnipath scheme for only four years? How can a person protect the nation when his service condition has no guarantee for his social security?” asked an agitating youth.

A report from Balasore district said that a 27-year-old man Dhanajay Mohanty, a resident of Tentei village in Soro police station area who had cleared the physical fitness test one and half years ago during a recruitment drive by the Army, allegedly committed suicide on Wednesday night due to frustration over the Agnipath scheme.

His family members said that Mohanty had received the admit card for the CEE to be held on August 30. But he apprehended that the examination stood cancelled after the announcement of the 'Agnipath' scheme, which proposes the recruitment in the Armed Forces on a contractual basis for those up to 23 years of age for a period of four years followed by compulsory retirement for most of them without gratuity and pension benefits.

MP: Hundreds Gather in Indore

Indore: Protests over the Centre's Agnipath recruitment scheme in Madhya Pradesh's Indore on Friday morning saw hundreds of protesters gathered on tracks near a railway station in the city. They allegedly 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.

"Nearly 600 youths gathered in different groups on the tracks near Laxmibai Nagar railway station in the city, forcing the railway administration to stop a few trains," Indore police commissioner Harinarayan Chari Mishra told PTI.

Police fired teargas shells and also cane-charged to disperse them and bring the situation under control, he said.

 "Two policemen sustained minor injuries during the incident but no information of train passengers getting injured in the stone-pelting has been received so far," he said.

Around 15 protesters were arrested and legal action against them was initiated, Mishra said.

Protesters had also pelted stones and set shops on fire near a railway station in Gwalior on Thursday.

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