‘Agnipath’ Protests: States Increase Security Amid Bandh Call

On Monday, protests over the Centre’s new ‘Agnipath’ recruitment program prompted increased security in many states.

On June 14, demonstrations occurred across Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand, and Assam after the announcement of the policy, which permits Indian youths to serve in the regular cadre of the Armed Forces for a term of four years.

As the agitation became more intense in certain areas, demonstrators went on the rampage, torching trains and cars and wrecking both private and public property.

On Monday, Congress will stage “peaceful” rallies throughout the nation against the “anti-youth” ‘Agnipath’ recruiting plan.

“Tomorrow lakhs of Congress workers across the country will continue peaceful protests against the anti-youth ‘Agnipath’ scheme and against the Modi government’s vendetta politics targeting its MP Rahul Gandhi,” Congress General Secretary in-charge Communications Jairam Ramesh said on Twitter on Sunday.

Several organizations will organize rallies today at Jantar Mantar in the national capital against the ‘Agnipath’ plan. Gopal Rai, the Delhi Environment Minister, will also participate in the demonstration.

“A unified movement against the ‘Agnipath’ program will be organized at Jantar Mantar in Delhi at 11 a.m. on June 20,” Mr Rai wrote in a tweet on Friday.

READ MORE: Rahul Gandhi’s 4th round of questions today; Congress to meet president

This year, 46,000 ‘Agniveers’ will be recruited, but a prominent military general predicts the number will rise to 1.25 lakhs soon. All recruits to the Armed Forces must be between the ages of 17.5 and 21 years old.

Following complaints, the Central government announced an increase in the upper age restriction for ‘Agniveers’ recruitment from 21 to 23 years for the 2022 recruitment cycle, citing the inability to complete the recruitment over the previous two years.

Meanwhile, authorities in numerous states have announced steps and increased security in preparation for the June 20 demonstration. Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which outlaws four or more people gatherings, has been applied in Delhi’s neighbouring suburbs of Faridabad and Noida.

The Uttar Pradesh Police Department has said that individuals found to be engaged in jeopardizing the peace would face severe consequences.

“Anti-social groups may jeopardize calm amid demonstrations over the ‘Agnipath’ Scheme. Section 144 has been enforced in Gautam Buddha Nagar, and anybody engaged in such occurrences would face severe punishment, “Ashutosh Dwivedi, ADCP, Noida Law and Order, said.

Prohibitory orders under section 144 have been issued in Rajasthan’s Jaipur from 6 p.m. on Sunday to midnight on August 18 in anticipation of law and order disruptions caused by the demonstrations.

The Punjab Police’s ADGP Law and Order have issued a warning to all CPs and SSPs in the state, asking them to keep an eye on social media organizations that are actively organizing or disseminating inciting information about the plan.

In the wake of demonstrations organized by some organizations, all schools in Jharkhand will be closed today as a precaution, according to a state education official.

According to the district administration’s decree, all schools in Muzaffarpur, Bihar, would be closed.

While the government claims that the ‘Agnipath’ scheme provides a golden opportunity for young people to join the defence system and serve their country, Congress has said that the recruitment policy is controversial, poses multiple risks, and undermines the armed forces’ long-standing traditions and ethos. There is no guarantee that soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country.

‘Agniveers’ will be registered for a four-year service tenure, including training. Only 25% of the ‘Agnives’ will be kept or re-enlisted in the regular cadre after four years, depending on merit, desire, and medical fitness. These 25% ‘Agniveers’ will be re-elected for a full 15-year term.

As the demonstrations continued, a senior Army official reaffirmed Sunday that the policy would not be reversed, claiming that it is the “sole progressive measure to make the nation youthful.”

Meanwhile, the first wave of ‘Agniveers’ under the Centre’s new program is registering.

On June 24, the ‘Agnipath’ recruiting process will commence, and the online test will take place on July 24.

Congress has asked the government to hold the ‘Agnipath’ project, undertake extensive talks with current and retired officers, and address quality, efficiency, and economy without sacrificing any of the three factors.

In response to concerns about the future of ‘Agnives’ and their job security, the Centre approved a proposal to reserve 10% of job vacancies in the Ministry of Defence for ‘Agnives’ who meet the required eligibility criteria, as well as to give them priority in recruitment for the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles.

Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Karnataka have all decided that ‘Agnivesers’ would be given first preference in state government positions.

Prot protests have affected rail services in numerous regions of the nation. According to railway authorities on Sunday, the continuous unrest has impacted 491 train services throughout the country.