Agnipath: High security amid Bharat bandh call; the updates so far

High security has been deployed across the country including Bihar, Delhi's Nizamuddin, Punjab's Bathinda Jalandhar railway station, Haryana Lal Batti Chowk in Fatehabad, Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

Protests against the government’s ‘Agnipath’ army recruiting plan have resumed. In response to the armed forces aspirants’ demand for a “Bharat Bandh,” several state administrations have tightened security, on Monday.

Demonstrations in several states turned violent, escalating the conflict. Protesters set fire to trains, destroyed public and police vehicles. Further, security officers and protestors were injured.

High security has been deployed across the country including Bihar, Delhi’s Nizamuddin, Punjab’s Bathinda Jalandhar railway station, Haryana Lal Batti Chowk in Fatehabad, Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal Rajasthan, and Uttar Pradesh.

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What happened across the country after the scheme was announced

After the Union government launched the Agnipath scheme on 13 July to serve in the three wings of the Armed Forces, massive protests erupted last week.

Army candidates have been protesting across 11 states, including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, Assam, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, and Punjab.

The protestors have been targeting the trains and have burned several of them as a result of which the railways have suffered a major loss of property over the last five days.

As many as 529 trains were cancelled on Monday in the wake of a massive pan-India protest against the Centre’s newly introduced defence recruitment scheme Agnipath.

Centre’s response:

In addition, the Union home ministry has decided to grant Agniveers (aspirants enrolled in the Agnipath scheme) a three-year age relaxation above the specified upper age restriction for enlistment into the Central Armed Police Forces and the Assam Rifles.

Earlier, as a one-time gesture to appease the protestors, the Centre lifted the maximum age restriction for recruitment to 23 years for the year 2022.

Amid ongoing protests by the country’s youth against the armed forces’ new recruitment policy Agnipath scheme, the Indian Army, on June 20 (Monday), issued a notification for the first round of recruitment through the scheme.

The notification has come on a day when several groups called ‘Bharat Bandh’.

Warning from the Centre:

On Sunday, the three military forces released a comprehensive timetable for enrolling under the ‘Agnipath’ initiative, warning that anyone who engages in violence or arson will not be enrolled.

Further, the BJP’s general secretary said that he will give precedence to ‘agniveers’ for security posts at his party’s headquarters, adding that now “we know” what the BJP meant when it started the ‘Main Bhi Chowkidaar’ campaign in 2019.

He also said that indicated that if he had to recruit specialists to provide security at the party’s headquarters, he would prioritize individuals who had served as Agniveer troops.

Opposition protests

On Monday, Congress leaders staged a ‘Satyagraha’ at Jantar Mantar in the national capital to show support for armed military candidates challenging the ‘Agnipath’ plan.

Some members of the Youth Congress were apprehended after blocking a train near Connaught Place’s Shivaji Bridge railway station. As the police have strengthened security across the city and its adjoining districts, traffic bottlenecks have occurred in several parts of Delhi.

Remarks made against Agnipath

“PM has forced youth to walk on ‘Agnipath’ of unemployment,” said Rahul Gandhi. The former Congress chief also said that for eight consecutive years, the BJP government has “insulted” the values of ‘Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan’.

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said that BJP is trying to fool people with schemes like ‘Agnipath’ ahead of 2024 Lok Sabha polls.

Senior Congress leader Salman Khurshid said, “This is not an issue for the youth alone. There is now a question mark on the character of the armed forces. That is a matter of grave concern.”

Telangana IT minister KT Rama Rao stated that he was unsure if the announcement was just a ruse to divert the country’s attention from the allegations on Modi-Adani corruption nexus in Sri Lanka.

“Was #AgnipathScheme announcement just a ruse to divert India’s attention from #Srilanka allegations on Modi – Adani corruption nexus? #JustAsking (sic)” he tweeted.

What is the Agnipath Scheme

On June 13, the BJP-led central government unveiled the Agnipath scheme. According to the central government, roughly 45,000–50,000 young men will be recruited each year under the new scheme. Those chosen will be referred to as ‘Agniveers.’

Agniveers will only be on the job for four years. They will go through rigorous training for the first six months before being recruited into the army, navy, or airforce and serving the country for the next three and a half years.

The announcement of the scheme has sparked protests among young people across the country.

On June 16 and 17, protests were staged in 11 states, and some states still continue to hold protests. Protesters obstruct traffic and cause damage to public property.

The protest took place in Bihar, West Bengal, Odisha, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan and Delhi.

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