India’s Agnipath: Violent protests erupt against new army recruitment scheme

This week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced a review of the recruitment of India’s 1.38 million armed forces in a bid to lower the average age of personnel and cut pension costs.

But would-be recruits, military veterans, opposition leaders and even some members of the ruling Modi Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have expressed reservations about the revamped process.

In the Palwal district of northern Haryana, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of the capital New Delhi, a mob threw stones at a government official’s house and police guarding the building opened fire to keep the crowd at bay, according to video footage from a partner. Reuters. API.

“Yes, we fired a few shots to keep the crowd back,” a local police spokesman said, declining to be named.

There were no immediate reports of casualties.

Mobile internet was temporarily suspended in the Palwal area for the next 24 hours, the information department of Haryana said.

Protesters in eastern India’s Bihar state set fire to a BJP office in the city of Navada, attacked rail infrastructure and blocked roads as demonstrations spread across several parts of the country, police officials told Reuters.

Protesters also attacked railway property in Bihar, set train cars on fire in at least two places, damaged railway tracks and vandalized stations, according to officials and the railway statement.

The new recruitment system, called Agnipath or “path of fire” in Hindi, will recruit men and women aged 17½ to 21 for four-year terms in non-commissioned ranks, with a quarter retained for longer periods.

Previously, soldiers were recruited into the army, navy, and air force separately and typically entered service for up to 17 years for the lowest ranks.

The shorter tenure caused concern among potential recruits.

“Where will we go after only four years?” one young man, surrounded by fellow protesters in Bihar’s Jehanabad district, told ANI. “We will be homeless after four years of service. So the roads are clogged.”

Smoke billowed from burning tires at an intersection in Jehanabad, where protesters shouted slogans and did push-ups to show their fitness for service.

In Bihar and the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, protests took place in January this year against the railroad recruitment process, highlighting India’s ongoing problem of unemployment.

Varun Gandhi, a BJP MP from Uttar Pradesh, in a letter to Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday, said that 75% of those recruited under the scheme would become unemployed after four years of service.

“Every year this number will increase,” Gandhi said, according to a copy of the letter he posted on social media.

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