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Bihar: Youth Protests Continue Against the Agnipath Scheme

The protesters said that protests would continue until the government scraps the scheme.
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Patna: Protests by jobless youths continued across Bihar for the second consecutive day on Thursday against the Agnipath scheme for recruitment into the armed forces to cut down salaries and pension, announced by the Narendra Modi government.

Thousands of defence jobs aspirants, mostly students, took to the streets, shouted slogans against the scheme, and blocked roads and railway tracks, demanding the withdrawal of the scheme.

As per local reports, protests spread to nearly a dozen districts, including Jehanabad, Nawada, Munger, Buxar, Ara, Siwan, Gaya, Arwal, Begusarai and other places. The protesters said that protests would continue until the government scraps the scheme.

As per the police officials, protesting youths targeted railway stations, railway tracks and trains, disrupting normal train movement in the Gaya rail section, Patna-Gaya rail section, Gaya-Kiul rail section and Chapra-Siwan rail section.

”In Buxar, thousands of youths took out a protest march, shouted slogans against the scheme and blocked railway tracks at the railway station for the second day. In Ara and Nawada also, protesters took out a march and blocked roads and railway tracks.”

A railway official at the zonal headquarters of East Central Railway in Hajipur said protesters disrupted train movements at railway stations of Jehanabad, Buxar, Chapra, Siwan, Nawada, and Ara. Several trains remained stranded for hours at different railway stations.

Unconfirmed reports suggest protesting youths pelted stones at police and trains at a few places.

The protesters also expressed anger at the failure of the state and Central governments to provide employment.

A section of angry protesters were candidates who had been waiting for two years for the defence recruitment process to start. They said that the written examination is still awaited two years after the physical and medical tests of candidates from eight districts of Bihar were conducted.

”Aspirants of armed forces have been neglected, ignored and left to suffer, and now this new scheme will add fuel to the fire. The government should not play with jobless youths because they can risk their lives to oppose such schemes,” Rajesh Sharma (name changed on request) told NewsClick.

Protests erupted after the Central government announced that about 45,000 aspirants in the 17.5-21 age group would be recruited as ‘Agniveers’, or soldiers, into Army, Navy and Air Force for four years, with only 25% of them being absorbed for regular service 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.

Sensing growing anger among jobless youths against the scheme, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav tweeted and targeted the Modi government for launching an MGNREGA scheme for educated youths.

Yadav, also the leader of the opposition in the state Assembly, posted a news item of a Hindi newspaper cutting in which Modi had promised to provide jobs to 80 crore youths.

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