India’s Agnipath protests: Deliberations on to pacify those wanting permanent military jobs

India’s Agnipath protests: Deliberations on to pacify those wanting permanent military jobs

Amidst escalating arson and violent protests over the Indian government’s move to go for short-term military recruitment, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today met the three service chiefs.

It was Singh’s second meeting with the chiefs of the Army, Navy and the Air Force for the second straight day on the issue.

There was no official comment on the meeting but it is learnt that the focus of the deliberations was on pacifying the protesters who want permanent military jobs and continuance of the existing life-long pension, our New Delhi correspondent reports.

The railways’ properties, including stations, tracks and trains, were the primary targets of the anti Agnipath protesters in the last four days and more than 350 trains were cancelled on Saturday (June 18, 2022) across India.

The Bihar state government today pointed to the role of three coaching centres in the anti Agnipath violence near Patna, capital city of Bihar. news agency ANI reported.

“Info gathered from mobile phones of those arrested from Masaurhi yesterday reveals involvement of three coaching centres, FIR registered. 23 FIRs registered, 147 arrests made so far,” Chandrashekhar Singh, district magistrate of Patna, said.

The violence during four days of protests in Bihar led to destruction of property worth Rs 200 crores and left 50 coaches and five engines completely burnt, a senior railway official said. Platforms, computer systems and other technical equipment were also damaged, Prabhat Kumar, divisional manager for the Danapur Rail Division said.

A former army man has been arrested by the police in connection with last Friday’s violence at Secunderabad railway station in Telangana state. According to police, Avula Subba Rao is allegedly the mastermind behind the violence in which several trains were set ablaze by the protesters, while one person was killed when police opened fire to disperse the mob.

Rao runs a training academy for army job aspirants and reportedly created WhatsApp groups to mobilize the mob and played a key role in arson and vandalism in Secunderabad.

The Indian government came out with a series of sops to placate the protesters. Among the sops are reservation of 10 percent of the jobs in various organizations under the Defence Ministry for those recruits who serve out their four-year tenure under the Agnipath scheme if they meet the requisite eligibility criteria.

The Home Ministry too announced 10 percent reservations for ‘Agniveer’ (recruits under the Agnipath scheme) in Central Armed Police Forces and Assam Rifles following completion of their four-year tenure.

The Indian Air Force today came out with details of the new scheme and the Indian Navy and the Army are also expected to issue similar details soon.

The three services are planning to deploy the first batches of recruits under the new scheme both in operational and non-operational roles by June next year, senior military officials said.

In a bid to assuage the protesters, the government on Thursday night increased the upper age limit for recruitment under the Agnipath scheme to 23 years from 21 for the year 2022.

Unveiling the Agnipath scheme on Tuesday last, the government said youths between the ages of 17 and-a-half and 21 years would be inducted for a four-year tenure while 25 percent of them will be subsequently inducted for regular service and the rest de-inducted.

A major aim of the Agnipath scheme is to give the Indian military a younger age profile and cut down the ballooning salary and pension bills.

The announcement of the Agnipath scheme came in the backdrop of recruitments into the military remaining stalled over the Covid-19 pandemic in the last two years.

The Indian Army recruits 50,000 to 60,000 soldiers annually. However, the recruitment could not take place for the last two years due to the pandemic.

The protests against Agnipath’ scheme were reported from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Telangana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and West Bengal. In Delhi, Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra and other party leaders held a ‘Satyagrah’ protest against the Agnipath scheme demanding immediate withdrawal of the new recruitment plan.

Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav demanded that the centre should clear the doubts over the scheme.

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