Massive protests against Centre's 'Agnipath' scheme in Bihar; Mayawati calls it 'unfair' towards youth

BSP supremo Mayawati on Thursday hit out at the Union govt over its new 'Agnipath scheme' of recruiting soldiers, terming it ‘unfair towards rural youth.’

Massive protests against Centre's 'Agnipath' scheme in Bihar; Mayawati calls it 'unfair' towards youth

Patna: Thousands of youths in Bihar continued their protest against the Centre`s Agnipath scheme on Thursday by blocking the rail tracks at the Jahanabad railway station on the Patna-Gaya rail route. Demanding rollback of the scheme and recruitment under normal process, the agitators also blocked the Patna-Gaya road route.

At the Jahanabad railway station, the agitating students blocked the Patna-Gaya passenger train. The railway officials, along with district police, attempted to placate them and requested them to leave the railway track to restore transportation on the route.

Besides, a large number of protestors also assembled at Kako Mor on Patna Gaya main road and burnt tyres. They raised slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, accusing them of "compromising" the youths` future.

Reasons behind the protests in Bihar


Many of them alleged that the Centre was not hiring ‘Agniveers’ but "Bali Ka Bakra" (Scapegoats) for four years. Speaking to news agency ANI over taking part in the agitation, a protester voiced concerns over the next step after serving in the Army for four years as only 25 per cent of soldiers will be enrolled in the regular cadre.

“Where will we go after working for only 4 years? We will be homeless after 4 years of service. So we have jammed the roads; the country’s leaders will now get to know that people are aware,” a protester in Jehanabad said.

The agitating students set a coach of intercity express at Bhabua Road railway station afire in Kaimur districts. They threw a burning tyre in the intercity express after passengers deboarded from the train. In Nawada, the protestors burnt tyres at Nawada railway station and on busy Prajatantra Chowk. Due to massive protests, the traffic on the Gaya-Keul rail section was also disrupted.

The Howrah-Gaya express was also stopped at Warsaliganj railway station. Several trains on this route were also stopped at several stations. Incidents of stone-pelting were also reported from Arrah. 

Mayawati calls it 'unfair'


Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati on Thursday hit out at the Union government over its new 'Agnipath scheme' of recruiting soldiers, terming it ‘unfair towards rural youth.’ As announced, 'Agnipath' or 'Agniveer' scheme is a process for recruiting soldiers in the Army, Navy and Air force, to be hired for a term of four years on contract. “Even though it has been called an attractive scheme, the youths of the country are dissatisfied and angry. They are openly opposing the change in army recruitment system,’’ Mayawati said in a tweet in Hindi.



"They believe that the government is limiting the soldiers' tenure to four years in order to eliminate pension benefits in the army and government jobs, which is grossly unfair and deleterious to the future of rural youth and their families," Mayawati said.



In a series of tweets, the former Uttar Pradesh chief minister said that the new move of recruitment will add to the woes of the people already beset with inflation and poverty. "People in the country are already afflicted by rising poverty, inflation, unemployment, wrong policies, and arrogant working style of the government, in such a situation, the uneasiness spread among the youth regarding the new recruitment system in the army is causing anxiety.

“The government should reconsider its decision immediately, this is the demand of BSP,” Mayawati added. 




What is 'Agnipath' central recruitment scheme? 


The Union Cabinet on Tuesday (June 14) unveiled the AGNIPATH recruitment scheme for Indian youth to serve in the Armed Forces. While the scheme allows interested youth to serve in the Armed Forces for a period of four years, a new educational programme is set to be launched by the Ministry of Education for the enrollers in the scheme. This programme will provide youth in the Armed forces to receive training for job roles in the civilian sector.

Announcing the scheme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, "After keeping the recruitment pending in the army for a long time, the centre has now announced a new recruitment scheme 'Agniveer' with a short duration of four years in the army.''

Who can be recruited under 'Agnipath' scheme?


Under the scheme, around 46,000 soldiers will be recruited this year between the ages of 17 and a half years and 21 years into the three services, the defence ministry said. The recruitment will be based on an "all India, all-class" basis that is set to change the composition of several regiments that recruit youths from specific regions as well as castes such as Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs.

After completion of the four-year tenure of the recruits, the scheme provides for retaining 25 per cent of each specific batch for regular service, based on organisational requirements and policies promulgated by the armed forces from time to time.

"Under the 'Agnipath' scheme, Indian youth will be provided an opportunity to serve in the armed forces as 'Agniveer'. This scheme has been brought to strengthen the security of the country. It is a transformative scheme," Singh said and added that it will enhance the combat potential of the armed forces with a younger profile and technologically adept soldiers.

Describing it as a major defence policy reform to usher in a "new era" in the human resource policy of the three services, the defence ministry said the scheme comes into immediate effect and will govern the enrolment for the three services for the recruitment process for personnel below officer rank (PBOR). The scheme was known at the proposal stage as the 'Tour of Duty' (ToD).

Monthly salary and tax exemptions 


The monthly salary of an 'Agniveer' in the first year of employment would be Rs 30,000 and the in-hand amount would be Rs 21,000 as Rs 9,000 would go to a corpus and the government will make an equal contribution per month.

Subsequently, the monthly salary in the second, third and fourth year will be Rs 33,000, Rs 36,500 and Rs 40,000 respectively. Each 'Agniveer' will get an amount of Rs 11.71 lakh as the 'Seva Nidhi Package' and it will be exempted from the income tax. The scheme is also expected to cut the ballooning salary and pensions bills of the armed forces as there will be no entitlement to gratuity and pensionary benefits.

The defence budget of Rs 5,25,166 crore for 2022-23 included Rs 1,19,696 crore for defence pensions. The allocation for revenue expenditure was Rs 2,33,000 crore. The revenue expenditure includes expenses on payment of salaries and maintenance of establishments.

When asked whether the scheme was aimed at cutting the pension bill of the armed forces, Singh said the government will always make available adequate resources for the three services and there was no question of a shortage of funds for them. The recruits will be provided non-contributory life insurance cover of Rs 48 lakh for the duration of their engagement period in the armed forces, according to the defence ministry.

The four-year tenure under the new scheme will include around two-and-a-half months to six months of training periods. The ministry said 'Agniveers' would form a distinct rank in the armed forces, different from any other existing ranks.

(With Agency Inputs)

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