Patna: After supporting a day-long shutdown or Bihar Bandh, the Opposition Mahagathbandhan, including Rashtriya Janata Dal and Left parties MLAs and MLCs, took to the streets on Wednesday and staged a protest march to Raj Bhawan, demanding withdrawal of the armed forces recruitment scheme, Agnipath.
RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav, who is also the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, led the protest march from Vidhan Sabha to Raj Bhawan, and submitted a memorandum to the Governor. “Mahagathbandhan is with youths protesting against the scheme and we will fight from ‘Sadak to Sansad’ (Streets to Parliament) ”, he said.
Former chief Minister Rabri Devi, who is an RJD MLC and wife of RJD chief Lalu Prasad, all MLAs and MLCs of RJD and Left parties, including the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Party of India, participated in the protest march. But MLAs and MLCs of Congress, an ally of Mahagathbandhan, stayed away from the protest march.
Tejashwi Yadav said the Agnipath scheme should be withdrawn immediately because it is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s “hidden agenda.”
“The scheme is not in the interest of the country. This scheme is like MGNREGA for educated youths and appears to be a well-designed part of a hidden agenda of the Sangh”, he said.
The RJD leader dared BJP leaders to make their children ‘agniveer ‘ and sad his party RJD will give Rs 24 lakh to them and will provide jobs in RJD office after four years.
“As all top BJP leaders have been loudly defending the scheme and propagating that it is good for youths as government will pay 24 lakhs during four years’ service, why not they ensure that their children join Agnipath,” he added.
Tejashwi Yadva also questioned the silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on the issue despite large-scale protests by youths against the scheme.
He also demanded that FIRS should be withdrawn against all protesters, mostly jobless youths, and hundreds of those arrested for protests against Agnipath and sent to jail should be released soon.
“They (protesters) were worried about their future and livelihood and protested against Agnipath. It isnot a crime”, he added.
Jobless youths across the country are angry following announcement of the scheme. Under Agnipath, there are strong possibility that 75% youths will be unemployed after four years. What they will do after four years of army job, this is the big issue of worry for them.
Tejashwi Yadav said the Central government has failed to reply to his queries about the scheme that he raised two days ago. ”I am yet to receive any reply” he said in a reference to 20 questions he asked the Centre.
One of his questions was whether Agniveers roped in for four years on withdrawn contract will get 90 days' leave like regularised soldiers? Another was that why are defence services officers not roped in the same way the government was planning to take Agniveers for four years? He also asked whether Agniveer youths will get gratuity and what about facilities like canteen and health benefits.
Protests against the scheme first erupted in Bihar last week and soon spread to several other states after the Modi government announced that 45,000 soldiers, airmen and sailors in the 17.5-21 age group would be recruited as Agniveers for only four years with only 25% of them being absorbed for another 15 years based on merit and performance. The rest will get a one-time tax-free Seva Nidhi package of around Rs 11.71 lakh with no gratuity or pension.
Bihar witnessed widespread protests against the scheme in all 38 districts for four to five days. During the protests around 60 bogies of over a dozen trains and seven locomotive engines were set ablaze, several railway station vandalised. Protesters blocked roads and railway tracks that disrupted trains movement and forced Railways to cancelled more than 400 trains for few days.
The state government also suspended internet services in 20 districts and imposed Section 144 in several districts.
According to ADG police headquarter JS Gangwar ,161 FIRs have been lodged by the police and around 922 protesters have been arrested so far.
Angry protesters also set fire to the BJP office in Nawada district and attacked party MLA Aruna Devi’s vehicle injuring two of her bodyguards on June 16. The house of Chapra BJP MLA Dr CN Gupta was attacked the same day.
On June 18, there was a day-long shutdown.The ‘Bihar Bandh’ call was given by student body AISA-INOS, Rojgar Sangarsh Sanyukt Morcha and Sena Bharti Jawan Morcha that was initially supported by Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal and Left parties .Later ruling ally of BJP, Hindustani Awam Morcha, former ally Vikasheel Insaan Party. also extended support to the bandh.