Agnipath Scheme: Youth Protests Enter 4th Day, Demand for Roll-Back Gathers Steam
Image Courtesy: PTI
New Delhi: Protests by angry youth, most of them Army aspirants, spread to more states and entered the fourth day on Saturday, with a successful shutdown in Bihar. The protesters, some of whom also indulged in violence, were unrelenting in their demand for complete roll-back of the scheme, despite the Home Ministry trying to douse the fire by announcing 10% reservation for ‘Agniveers’ in Central paramilitary forces and Assam Rifles. A three-year relaxation in the upper age limit was also announced.
However, the protesters said they wanted withdrawal of the scheme.
Haryana/Punjab: Strong Protests in Ludhiana, Mahendergarh
The protests against the Agnipath scheme continued in Haryana with some youths setting a vehicle on fire outside Mahendergarh railway station on Saturday while a group of over 50 agitators barged inside Ludhiana railway station in Punjab causing damage to property.
A railway engineer at Mahendergarh, whose residential quarter is adjacent to the railway station, said some protesters barged inside his building complex and damaged office, and a generator set.
In Punjab, a group of over 50 youths, who had their faces covered with a cloth, barged inside the Ludhiana railway complex. Some were carrying sticks smashed many glass pane and ticket counters, police claimed.
The protesters were demanding that recruitment to Army should be held like earlier.
In Jalandhar, youths took out a protest march from Rama Mandi chowk to PAP chowk and blocked the national highway and demanded that the Centre should withdraw the Agnipath scheme.
Meanwhile, protests against the Agnipath scheme continued in many parts of Haryana, such as in Sonipat. Protesters blocked the Rohtak-Panipat highway. In Kaithal they took out protest march while protests were also held in Fatehabad and Jind.
Haryana districts like Rewari, Charkhi Dadri, Gurugram and Palwal send a sizeable number of youths to the defence forces.
Rajasthan: Hundreds Protest in Jaipur, Jodhpur
Jaipur: Hundreds of youths protested against the Agnipath scheme at various places in Rajasthan including Jaipur, Jodhpur and Jhunjhunu, and blocked the Jaipur-Delhi Highway in Alwar briefly.
The youths gathered at the highway in Behror and blocked it for nearly 15 minutes, police said.
Similar protests were held in Jhunjhunu where the youths tried to block a road and a railway track in Chidawa. However, police dispersed the gathering. Protests were reported from Jodhpur and Jaipur as well.
Karnataka: Lathi-charge in Dharwad
Dharwad (K'taka): Police resorted to mild lathi-charge to disperse anti-Agnipath protesters as they attempted to take out a protest march against the defence recruitment scheme here, officials said on Saturday.
According to police, the aspirants had gathered at Kala Bhavan here from various parts of the district, and wanted to stage a protest.
The Additional Deputy Commissioner of the district received a memorandum from the protesters.
A section of protesters reportedly pelted stones on a bus and they were not allowed to head towards the Deputy Commissioner's office. The police then used lathi-charge to disperse them.
Some of the protesters have been taken into custody, the police said.
There were also reports of protests in Gokak and other parts of neighbouring Belagavi district. Congress MLA from Khanapur constituency Anjali Nimbalkar too participated in one such protest.
Kerala: Demand for Army Recruitment Exam
Thiruvananthapuram: The ongoing anti-Agnipath agitations in various parts of the country on Saturday sparked another form of protest in Kerala as hundreds of youths took out huge protest rallies in Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode demanding to conduct the pending written examination for the army recruitment at the earliest.
The protesting youths were those who had already cleared their physical and medical fitness tests and had been waiting for their army Common Entrance Examination (CEE) for the last two years.
Many of them expressed concern that the implementation of Agnipath scheme would spoil their chance of direct recruitment to the military service.
The job aspirants, who gathered in huge numbers at Thampanoor here in the morning, marched to Raj Bhavan, the official residence of Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, raising slogans of "We want justice" and holding placards and banners.
The placards read "Conduct Army CEE Exam", "Boycott Agnipath", "Justice for army students" and so on.
In Kozhikode, hundreds of youths, who already cleared their physical and medical fitness tests, gathered near Calicut railway station to mark their concern over their fate in the wake of Agnipath scheme.
Kolkata: Police Arrest Anti-Agnipath Demonstrators
Kolkata: Police on Saturday afternoon clashed with agitating members of the All India Democratic Students Organisation (AIDSO) and All India Democratic Youth Organisation (AIDYO) when they tried to block roads protesting against the Centre's 'Agnipath' scheme in the southern part of the city's Hazra area, a hundred metres from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's residence.
Protesting the scheme, the activists demanded that recruits into India's armed forces be given permanent jobs rather than be taken in under the "Agnipath" scheme which employs a soldier on a contract for four years.
A huge police force led by senior officers cleared the area, arresting over 20 activists.
All police stations in the city and the districts of West Bengal have been alerted and asked to keep tight vigil on areas under their jurisdiction to avoid any untoward incident, he said.
Maharashtra: Youth Cong Workers Protest
Nagpur: Workers of the Maharashtra Pradesh Youth Congress (MPYC) staged demonstrations in Nagpur on Saturday against the Central government's Agnipath scheme for short-term recruitment into the armed forces.
Claiming that the scheme would destroy the future of youth, Youth Congress workers led by their president Kunal Raut protested at Zero Mile in Nagpur.
Protestors raised slogans against the Modi government and blocked traffic at RBI square, following which they were detained by the police and taken way.
Odisha: Aspirant Runs 60 km, Protest Spreads
Bhubaneswar: An aspirant for an Armed Forces job ran 60 km in Nabarangpur as a mark of his opposition to 'Agnipath' on Saturday and a large number of agitators sat on dharna near the revenue divisional commissioner's office in Berhampur in Ganjam district as protests against the scheme spread in Odisha.
The agitators at Berhampur, including many who cleared the physical tests held earlier, raised slogans demanding withdrawal of the 'Agnipath' initiative and demanded at least 15 years of service in the Armed Forces instead of four after selection.
The demonstration was completely peaceful as the administration had made elaborate security arrangement keeping in view the violent agitation in different states.
An agitator Dilip Kumar Nahaka said “I have already spent three years in NCC and got its A, B and C certificates. Many like me have also spent two years preparing for the defence service. Now the government is saying that out tenure will be for only four years”.
Besides many of the agitators have already crossed the present upper age limit of 23 years as defence recruitment was not conducted for two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
“When the government is conducting all other examinations, including for civil services and even IPL matches, it deferred several times recruitment for the armed forces on the plea of pandemic,” he said amidst vociferous support by those present at the spot.
The state had witnessed anti-Agnipath protest and violence in Cuttack on Friday and alleged suicide by an aspirant in Balasore district.
369 trains cancelled due to Agnipath protests: Rlys
New Delhi: The Railways cancelled 369 trains on Saturday due to the agitation against the Centre's recently announced Agnipath scheme, officials said. These include 210 mail/express and 159 local passenger trains.
The Railways has also partially cancelled two mail/express trains, thus the total number of trains affected during the day is 371, the officials said.
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