India Offers Job Quotas to Angry Youth As Protests Over 'Agnipath' Recruitment Scheme Intensify
15:49 GMT 18.06.2022 (Updated: 15:50 GMT 18.06.2022)
© AP Photo / Rajanish KakadeCongress party workers protest against against a new short-term government recruitment scheme for the military, in Mumbai, India, Saturday, June 18, 2022.
© AP Photo / Rajanish Kakade
India’s new four-year military recruitment scheme has been met with violent protests in several states. A major grievance of the protesters is that the scheme doesn’t assure regular military employment, which comes with other benefits such as pension. At present, the Indian armed forces recruit soldiers for a minimum period of 17 years.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday announced a new job quota of 10 per cent for military aspirants who don’t get inducted into the three armed services at the end of the four-year tenure under the recently announced recruitment scheme, or ‘Agnipath’ (the path of fire).
The new quota would be applicable to the Indian Coast Guard, positions in the defence ministry as well as in the 16 state-owned defence manufacturing companies, according to an official statement.
The ‘Agnipath’ scheme, which was announced on 14 June by the defence minister, envisages recruiting youth between the age of 17.5 and 21 years for four years for positions below the officer rank in the army, air force and the navy. The government has said that the new initiative will make the Indian forces attain a “younger, fitter, diverse profile”.
Up to 25 percent of the ‘Agniveers’ (those recruited in the scheme) will be inducted into the three services. Nearly 46,000 new recruits will be added to the armed forces under the new initiative in the first year.
Amid widespread protests, Singh again defended the new scheme as one geared towards bringing in “revolutionary changes” in the armed forces, while addressing an event organised by an Indian media group.
“Some people are spreading misunderstanding. There might be some confusion among them as it is a new scheme,” the Indian defence minister said.
He also underlined that besides a salary of nearly $380 a month for four years, those exiting after four years would also be entitled to a one-time ‘Seva Nidhi’ package of approx. $14,110.
Earlier in the day, Indian home minister Amit Shah also announced the creation of a 10 percent quota in the central armed police forces (CAPFs) for graduates of the new scheme who didn’t make it to any of three services after the four-year period.
Shah also said that a 10 percent quota would apply for them in Assam Rifles, a group of the Indian Army specialising in counter-insurgency operations.
Several Indian states, including Assam, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, have already announced that those who will train under the new federal scheme would be afforded priority in police jobs.
Trains Services Suspended As Protests Intensify
The protests against the new scheme intensified on Saturday, with protesters torching Taregana train station in the eastern state of Bihar, as per Press Trust of India (PTI).
Around 350 trains have been suspended in areas affected by protests, according to reports.
The eastern state also suspended its train services between 4 a.m. and 8 p.m. owing to the ongoing protests.
Internet services have already been suspended in view of the worsening law and order situation in at least 18 districts of Bihar until 19 June.
Widespread protests against the new federal scheme were also witnessed in India’s most populous Uttar Pradesh state, with stone-pelting incidents against the security forces reported in several districts.
Protesting youths also blocked the Agra-Lucknow Expressway and the Delhi-Agra Expressway, only to be removed by police.
Uttar Pradesh’s Additional Director General (ADG), Law & Order, Prashant Kumar said that a total of 269 people have been arrested in the state over the violent protests.
Protests were also witnessed in the southern states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and the northern states of Punjab and Haryana.
Meanwhile, at least two opposition parties, including the main federal opposition Congress party and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), have called upon Prime Minister Narendra Modi to roll back the new scheme in order to assuage the angry protestors.