Why Center’s Agnipath Scheme Has Sparked Nationwide Protests
NEW DELHI, (IANS) – The Centre’s Agnipath recruitment scheme for Indian youth in the armed forces, termed a historic and transformative measure, has met an unprecedented level of agitations and protests in several states across India.
Massive protests erupted in Bihar, Rajasthan, and some other states against the recruitment scheme, over concerns of job security and other issues. However, many states have also announced schemes where such ‘Agniveers’, as the beneficiaries of this move are dubbed, can get advantage.
Under the scheme, around 46,000 youths, aged between 17 and a half and 21, will be recruited into the three services in a contract for four years.
However, after two days, defense service aspirants disrupted rail and road traffic in several parts of Bihar in protest of the recruitment scheme for its limited term of employment followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits. The agitation turned violent in the state’s Munger and Jehanabad as agitators burned tires, vandalized buses, and set trains on fire while raising slogans against the scheme.
The protests, which started in Bihar, have now spread to Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Bengal, Delhi, Haryana and other states. Among many other demands, the students are raising their concerns over the term, no pension provisions for those released early, and the age restriction that now makes many of them ineligible.
“We demand that exam should be held as it was done earlier. No one would like to join the armed forces only for just four years,” an agitating student said.
“We are practicing from years to get selected into the Army. Now we have come to know that it will be on contractual term only for four years which is not fair for students like us,” another aspirant said.
The Congress party said that the scheme carries multiple risks and subverts the longstanding traditions and ethos of the armed forces.
Former Union Minister P Chidambaram said the scheme is “controversial, carries multiple risks, subverts the long-standing traditions and ethos of the armed forces and there is no guarantee that the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country”.
As the country witnessed agitation and protest in several states, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted: “The central government’s new scheme in army recruitment is being opposed everywhere in the country. Young people are very angry. The demands are just right. The Army is the pride of our country, our youth want to give their whole life to the country, don’t keep their dreams tied in 4 years”.