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Agnipath: Army Aspirants From Kerala Join Protests; Youth Groups March to Central Govt Offices

Abhivad |
Over 400 protesters marched from Thambanoor to Raj Bhavan raising slogans such as "we want justice".

Kozhikode: The controversial Agnipath scheme, introduced by the Union Government for short-term recruitments to the armed forces, ignited protests from army aspirants and youth in Kerala. Around 1,000 army aspirants who have cleared medical and physical tests gathered in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, demanding the Centre conduct a Combined Entrance Examination(CEE) to recruit soldiers.

Over 400 protesters on Saturday marched from Thambanoor to Raj Bhavan, the Kerala Governor's official residence in Thiruvananthapuram. They raised slogans such as "we want justice" and "conduct CEE". Army aspirants from Kerala's southern districts came to the capital to protest the Centre's newly proposed short-term, contract-based recruitment system.

The protest demonstration at Kozhikode Railway station saw a participation of around 600 army aspirants, mainly from the northern districts. "Who's gonna give back our one and a half years?" read a placard carried by a protestor in Kozhikode. 

Shinoj (name changed to protect identity), an army aspirant from Vadakara of Kozhikode district, had cleared the medical and physical tests and was waiting for the Entrance Examination, the next step in the recruitment procedure. Shinoj and his friends now worry that all their hard work, from physical training to preparations for written tests, will be in vain.

Another protestor in Kozhikode said the protests in Kerala would not be as violent as in other parts of the country. "We do not intend to cause discomfort to the public. Our protest will be modest but determined. We will continue our protest till government initiates a procedure to conduct CEE," - he said. 

"The CEE has been stalled for over one and a half years now. It was postponed several times, citing COVID concerns. But in the meantime, the central government went ahead with recruitments and examinations for other vacancies. We have been waiting for the written test, and the government should ensure proper recruitment to armed forces," Shinoj said. 

The protesters have pointed out that in February and March 2021, the Calicut ARO (Army Recruiting Office) and the Thiruvananthapuram ARO had conducted recruitment at Greenfield Stadium in Thiruvananthapuram. More than 56,000 people have taken part in it, of which 5,000 have passed the Physical and Medical Test. These aspirants, however, have been waiting for the CEE (Common Entrance Exam) for the last one year and three months. Initially, it was decided to conduct the exam on April 25, 2021. Then the date was postponed due to Covid. Later on, they said, the exam was postponed six times for the same reason. While people were waiting for the CEE, the government announced the Agnipath scheme.

"We have been waiting for the exam for a year. The central government has not taken any action in this regard. Many quit their studies and jobs halfway to attend the exam and joined coaching centres to prepare for the exam," said one of the protesters.

Meanwhile, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi requesting to put the Agnipath scheme on hold. 

Protests erupting against the Agnipath scheme clearly indicate the sentiments of India's youngsters, the Kerala CM said in his response on Twitter. He also urged the PM to address criticism by professionals and consider the apprehensions of the youth.

Youth and student organisations, including the Democratic Youth Federation of India (DYFI) and the Students Federation of India (SFI), also organised demonstrations at central government offices in all districts.

On Monday, Left Democratic Youth Front (LDYF) held a protest at Raj Bhavan in Thiruvananthapuram. Hundreds of youngsters were part of this protest, demanding the withdrawal of the Agnipath Scheme.

Apart from this, youth organisations have conducted demonstrations across all its units against the scheme and police brutality on protesters in Delhi on Sunday. DYFI all India president AA Rahim MP, SFI General Secretary Mayukh Biswas, and student Leader Aishe Ghosh, along with other youth and student protesters, were brutally attacked by the Delhi police while protesting against the Agneepath project.

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