Agnipath stir continues on Day 3, train coaches set on fire in Bihar: 10 points
Protests continued on the third day against the new military scheme - ‘Agnipath’ even as the defence ministry, late on Thursday night, announced a "one-time" waiver for the upper-age limit for the recruits - who will be called "Agniveers" - from 21 to 23. In Bihar, train coaches were set on fire on Friday by agitators. Many states on Thursday saw violent demonstrations as opposition targeted the government over the military recruitment. The Congress has called it "penny-wise, security foolish". The government, however, has been trying to allay concerns by highlighting "facts vs myths" and listing out options for the recruitees after they are done with their four-year tour duty.
Here are ten points on the protests linked to the Agnipath scheme:
1. In a statement, the defence ministry on Thursday elaborated on the one-time waiver: “Cognizant of the fact that it has not been possible to undertake the recruitment during the last two years, the government has decided that a one-time waiver shall be granted for the proposed recruitment cycle for 2022. Accordingly, the upper age limit for the recruitment process for Agnipath scheme for 2022 is increased to 23 years."
2. After the much-debated scheme was revealed on Tuesday, demonstrations widened in several parts of the country on Thursday and turned violent in some areas of Bihar, Madhya Pradesh's Gwalior, Jammu, and Haryana, among others. Visuals of trains being burnt and other public infrastructure being destroyed prompted sharp reactions from the opposition against the government. In Bihar, on Friday, reports came in about train coaches being set ablaze in Samastipur.
3.Meanwhile, chief ministers of several BJP-ruled states - Uttar Pradesh's Yogi Adityanath, Madhya Pradesh's Shivraj Chouhan, Uttarakhand's Pushkar Singh Dhami - have said that those who retire from the services will be given opportunities in the states.
4. “Our government is fully committed to the all-round development of the youth of the state and providing them employment opportunities and we will continue to strive in this direction,” Dhami said on Thursday. Yogi Adityanath urged youth not to pay heed to rumours as former UP CMs - Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav - put out tweets.
5. Young men - aged between 17 and a half and 21 - are eligible for recruitment under the policy, while the upper age-limit has been raised to 23 as part of "one-time" waiver. The scheme will see 75 per cent of recruits - to be called 'Agniveers' - retired after a tour of duty of four years. As part of the policy, women too will be recruited.
6. The government has listed out options for 'Agniveers' after four years of service: "Those who quit the armed forces after four years will get a financial package of ₹12 lakh." "Agniveers who aspire to be entrepreneurs will get priority under bank loan schemes," it says.
7. "Those wishing to study further will get a Class 12 equivalent certificate and bridging course (of choice) for further studies," a statement highlights.
8. "Agniveers who wish to work after completion of their service under the Agnipath scheme will be given priority in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs), the Assam Rifles and police and allied forces in several states," it points out.
9. Meanwhile, the government has been urged for a rethink by Bihar ally JDU, and Punjab ally and former CM Captain Amarinder Singh.
10. The Congress is among the many opposition parties that has raised concerns. "How do you train a soldier in six months? This is not Boy Scout training. This is not NCC. This is a fighting soldier who has to give up his life, not only for his country but also for his comrades. He is fighting in the trenches, in a unit. You don't inculcate such qualities in six months of training. They are treating it like Boy Scout training. And then after you half-train them, where will you deploy them," former union minister P Chidambaram said on Thursday.