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UP: RLD Chief Jayant Chaudhary’s 'Yuva Panchayat' Against Agnipath Sees Huge Turnout

The 'Yuva Panchayat' campaign aims to reach out to youth in West UP who are against the new armed forces recruitment scheme.
Agneepath UP

Lucknow: Buses and Bikes were lined up on all roads leading to Shamli, Uttar Pradesh, where thousands of youths from several districts of western parts of the state had come to attend 'Yuva Panchayat' on Tuesday. It was of the largest gatherings of its kind to build further pressure on the central government on the demand to roll back the contentious Agnipath scheme for recruitment of soldiers to the armed forces.

The four-hour-long panchayat platform had over 30 speakers addressing the crowd, which included not just political leaders but also retired soldiers from various rural areas. Jayant Chaudhary, the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) chief who gave the call for panchayat, expanded the gamut of youths' demands beyond the repeal of the Agnipath scheme and guaranteed jobs for Agniveers after they successfully complete their four-year stint with the Indian Army, along with retirement benefits including gratuity and pension.

"We will not rest until the government repeals the Agnipath scheme. The central government will be forced to roll back the Agnipath recruitment scheme, just like it had to revoke the farm laws following sustained protests by farmers. On the lines of the Kisan Mahapanchayats, that too began from western Uttar Pradesh, we gave a call today for Yuva Panchayat and it will lead across the state," Chaudhary told NewsClick over the phone.

He also appealed to the government to release the protesting youth, immediately withdraw cases against them, and allow them to sit for examinations as they are in their 20s and unemployed.

“If the Agniveers who serve for a short time are not eligible for a pension, then why this ‘facility’ to public representatives?” the RLD leader asked.

Taking a swipe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he said the PM will have to apologise to the nation's youth for the second time after apologising to farmers last year when the three farm laws were withdrawn.

The party, which has its voter base in western UP, on Thursday announced a campaign in 11 districts in the region from June 28 to July 16 on the lines of the Kisan Mahapanchayat held last year against the central farm laws. Chaudhary’s 'Yuva Panchayat' campaign aims to reach out to the youth who are against the Agnipath scheme. He said that he will mobilise youths on the issue of unemployment in all 12 districts, including Shamli, Baghpat, Saharanpur, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Aligarh and Agra and if needed, he will interact with the youth in Awadh and Purvanchal region to understand their issues in finding employment.

Chaudhary, along with his supporters, will go from village to village and try to reduce the 'sense of fear' created among the army candidates by the government and build confidence among the youth.

According to the RLD, after Shamli, 'Yuva Panchayats' are scheduled to be held in Mathura (July 1), Muzaffarnagar (July 3), Bijnor (July 4), Bulandshahr (July 6), Amroha (July 8), Moradabad (July 9), Aligarh (July 11), Agra (July 12), Ghaziabad (July 14), and Baghpat (July 16).

NewsClick also spoke to several youths who gathered to listen to the RLD chief and other retired army officers.

“I have been preparing since 2019 for the Indian Army and it takes around Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 per month for my training and other expenses with the hope to the don army dress one day but this government snatched our dream. Where will we go after four years?” asked Akash Tomar, an applicant who was present at the panchayat.

Several parts of the country, including Uttar Pradesh and especially the Purvanchal region, witnessed protests after the announcement of the Agnipath scheme on June 14.

The scheme seeks to recruit youths in the age bracket of 17-and-half to 21 years in the armed forces for only four years with a provision to retain 25% of them for 15 more years. For 2022, the upper age limit has been extended to 23 years.

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