The Home and Defence ministries promised new 10 per cent quotas each in jobs for ‘Agnipath’ recruits after their four-year tenure in the armed forces. Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the PSUs under his housing and petroleum ministries are also working on plans to induct ‘Agniveers’.
The Centre indicated that other departments too were working in the direction after several BJP-ruled states like Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh and Assam announced various measures to encourage the youth to apply under the Agnipath scheme and assured them reservation.
The Home Ministry also decided to give 3 years of age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit to Agniveers for recruitment in CAPFs and Assam Rifles. On Thursday, the Centre raised the upper age limit for recruitment under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme to 23 years for 2022.
Over 350 trains were cancelled on Saturday across India as deadly violence by armed forces aspirants upset with the new programme continued in several states. The railways have suffered massive losses during protests against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme over the last four days.
In Bihar, a railway station and a police vehicle were torched, an ambulance attacked and security personnel injured in stone-throwing. Large-scale violence in the past few days has led to the suspension of internet services in 12 severely affected districts. Prohibitory orders have also been clamped in some towns as a preventive measure.
In Uttar Pradesh, cases were registered against 400 unknown persons in connection with the violence in Ballia, while 225 people were booked for holding protests on the Yamuna Expressway in Gautam Buddh Nagar adjoining Delhi.
In Haryana’s Mahendergarh, a group of youth set a pick-up van on fire and indulged in vandalism. Protests were also held in Sonipat, Kaithal, Fatehabad and Jind. The armed forces aspirants protested against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme at various places in Rajasthan as well – including Jaipur, Jodhpur, Behror and Jhunjhunu, and blocked the Jaipur-Delhi Highway in Alwar briefly.
The agitation also spread to southern states including Karnataka and Kerala, with aspirants doing push-ups on roads at some places to register their protest. In Bengal, train services in the North 24 Parganas district were disrupted for around one hour as a group of agitators blocked railway tracks.
The opposition maintained the pressure on the government, pressing for the immediate withdrawal of the scheme. ‘Agnipath’ has also faced criticism from some of the Army veterans, who argue that the four-year tenure will hit the fighting spirit in the ranks and make them risk-averse.
With inputs from NDTV