On Tuesday (June 14), the Indian government, along with the chiefs of the three armed forces, launched the Agnipath scheme for the recruitment of youth in the armed forces. The new recruits under the scheme will henceforth be known as ‘Agniveer’.
As per reports, the enrollment will be open for both men and women for a four-year period, including the training. Following the completion of their service, Agniveers will get preference in PSUs, and State Governments’ jobs. The Modi government had also announced the recruitment of 46,000 Agniveers this year.
Soon after, scores of armed forces aspirants took to the streets and destroyed public property under the pretext of ‘peaceful protests’ and demonstrations. While demanding a rollback of the government scheme, they vandalised public property, burnt trains and brought life to a standstill across various Indian States.
Students unleash mayhem in the name of protest
In the Southern State of Telangana, students dissatisfied with the Agnipath recruitment scheme vandalised the Secunderabad railway station and set a train on fire.
Visuals shared by news agency ANI showed an abandoned station, with smoke gushing out of a stationary train. The frenzied mob also damaged shops belonging to small business owners, which were located at the station.
#WATCH | Telangana: Stalls vandalised, train set ablaze and its windows broken at Secunderabad railway station by agitators who are protesting against #AgnipathRecruitmentScheme pic.twitter.com/zFNgJ2MEgD— ANI (@ANI) June 17, 2022
The armed force aspirants also blocked the railway tracks in the Narwana town in the Jind district of Haryana. They were seen disrupting railway service and standing on railway tracks with a tricolour in hand.
In Palwal, the police had to fire aerial shots to disrupt the mob which was pelting stones at them. During the scuffle, several police vehicles were damaged and police personnel were injured.
#WATCH | Haryana: Police personnel deployed at DC residence in Palwal resorted to aerial firing to warn protesters who were pelting stones at the residence amid their protest against #Agnipath scheme. They were protesting nearby; some Policemen injured, Police vehicles vandalised pic.twitter.com/Bfcb0IZsi8— ANI (@ANI) June 16, 2022
Similar scenes were observed in Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. Violent protestors, with their faces covered, were seen vandalising a railway station and throwing objects on the railway tracks.
They also burnt tyres in Gole ka Mandir area, prompting the State government to deploy a large contingent of police personnel to pacify the situation.
After Bihar, the protest against #Agnipath #Scheme reached to MP’s Gwalior.— काश/if Kakvi (@KashifKakvi) June 16, 2022
100s of students allegedly ransacked public properties, burnt tyres at Gole Ka Mandir area & also vandalised Birlanagar Railway station damaging tracks.
Heavy Police deployed. @DGP_MP @newsclickin
In Uttar Pradesh, the violent mob of aspirants vandalised the windscreen of roadway buses on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway. They also set a train ablaze in Balia during the protest.
The fury of the ‘students’ reached its zenith in the state of Bihar. On Friday (June 17), they attempted to vandalise the Hajipur railway station but their plans were thwarted by the police.
While speaking about the development, SP (Hajipur) Maneesh remarked, “Situation at the moment is alright. Hooligans have been chased away. Some of them have been detained for questioning.”
#WATCH | Bihar: Agitators protested against #AgnipathScheme, at Hajipur railway station today; they were later chased away by Police.— ANI (@ANI) June 17, 2022
“Situation at the moment is alright. Hooligans have been chased away. Some of them have been detained for questioning,” says SP Hajipur, Maneesh. pic.twitter.com/W1FnrXqDzj
The mob had earlier pelted stones at the residence of Deputy Chief Minister of Bihar, Renu Devi.
In a tweet, journalist Smita Prakash said, “Agnipath vandals have reached your homes, your gated neighbourhoods. No one is safe anymore. Will you react now dear politicians? Mobs you unleash will consume you. These visuals from outside Bihar’s deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi’s home, they threw stones at her balcony.”
Agnipath vandals have reached your homes, your gated neighbourhoods. No one is safe anymore. Will you react now dear politicians? Mobs you unleash will consume you— Smita Prakash (@smitaprakash) June 17, 2022
These visuals from outside the home of Bihar’s deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi’s, they threw stones at her balcony pic.twitter.com/M3glkahTpo
In Nevada, the aspirants blocked roads, burnt tyres and trains and caused public inconvenience under the guise of peaceful protests.
In the hill state of Himachal Pradesh, the students held protests in Kangra, Mandi, Hamirpur, Nagrota and Gaggal on June 16. They tore down PM Narendra Modi’s hoardings in Kangra and burnt the flags of the BJP.
They also blocked highways and raised slogans against the Modi government. The mob clashed with the cops, prompting the police to use force. The grim law and order situation, created by the armed forces aspirants, forced former Army General VK Singh to rule that they are unfit to become part of the Indian army.
Why do students want the rollback of the Agnipath scheme?
One of the grievances of the armed force aspirants is that only 25% of the Agniveers, recruited under the new scheme, will get the opportunity to continue for a full term. Many have also cried foul over the lack of pensionary benefits.
Some of the students have also complained that the recruitment in the Indian army was halted for a period of 2 years due to the outbreak of the Coronavirus. They claim that their future will be shrouded in obscurity with the implementation of the new scheme.
“It takes us 3 years to prepare for Indian army exams. We prepare for 3 years and get to serve only 4. What is there for us after we retire? The government is saying that we will get to join the IT sector. What will I do? Become a security guard. Is that what I am preparing for?” said a protestor on News 24.
The misplaced protests and benefits of the Agniveer scheme
Having said that, the early exit option for Agniveers will leave them with a SevaNidhi fund of ₹11.71 lakh and the ability to start a new career, get priority selection in police services, government agencies, and PSUs.
Apart from that, Agniveers will also get a non-contributory Life Insurance Cover of Rs 48 lakh for the duration of their engagement period in the Indian Armed Forces. During the period of service, the recruits will learn various military skills, including discipline, physical fitness, leadership qualities, courage and patriotism.
Although around 25% of the recruited Agniveers will be enrolled in Armed Forces as regular cadres post the four-year service, all candidates can apply on a volunteer basis to enrol in the regular cadre.
In association with IGNOU, the Armed Forces will provide graduation degrees to Agniveers that will help them if they want to go for higher studies after completion of four years of service.