Protests against India’s new military recruitment system are turning violent

LUCKNOW, India, June 16 (Reuters) – North Indian police fired into the air on Thursday to push back throwing crowds and authorities shut down mobile internet in at least one district to prevent a greater chaos, as protests spread against a new military recruitment system.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced this week a review of the recruitment of the Indian Armed Forces, which number 1.38 million people, with the aim of reducing the average age of staff and reducing spending on pensions. Read more

But potential recruits, military veterans, opposition leaders and even some members of Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have raised reservations about the renewed process.

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In Palwal district, in the northern state of Haryana, about 50 km (31 miles) south of the capital, New Delhi, a crowd threw stones at the home of a government official and the police guarding it. the building fired to keep the crowd at bay, according to video footage of the Reuters partner. ANI.

“Yes, we fired a few shots to control the crowd,” said a local police official, who declined to be named.

There was no immediate information about the victims.

Mobile internet has been temporarily suspended in Palwal district for the next 24 hours, Haryana’s information department said.

Protesters in the eastern Indian state of Bihar set fire to a BJP office in Nawada City, attacked railway infrastructure and blocked roads, as protests spread across parts of the state. country, police officials told Reuters.

Protesters do push-ups while protesting against the “Agnipath scheme” for recruiting personnel for the armed forces, in Munger, Bihar, India, on June 16, 2022 in this still image obtained from a video. ANI / Brochure through REUTERS

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Protesters also attacked railway properties across Bihar, installing buses in at least two places, damaging train tracks and vandalizing a station, according to officials and a railway statement.

The new recruitment system, called Agnipath or “Path of Fire” in Hindi, will incorporate men and women between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 for a four-year term in unofficial ranks, with only a quarter retained for longer periods. long.

Previously, soldiers had been recruited by the army, navy and air force separately and typically enter service for up to 17 years for the lower ranks.

The shorter duration has caused concern among potential recruits.

“Where will we go after working only four years?” a young man, surrounded by fellow protesters in Bihar’s Jehanabad district, told ANI. “We will be homeless after four years of service. So we have blocked roads.”

Smoke came out of the burned tires at a crossroads in Jehanabad, where protesters shouted slogans and did push-ups to emphasize their fitness for service.

Bihar and neighboring Uttar Pradesh saw protests over the hiring process for railway jobs in January this year, highlighting the persistent problem of unemployment in India. Read more

Varun Gandhi, a Uttar Pradesh BJP lawmaker, in a letter to Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh, said on Thursday that 75% of those recruited under the plan would be unemployed after four years. service.

“Every year, that number will increase,” Gandhi said, according to a copy of the letter he posted on social media.

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Written by Devjyot Ghoshal; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne, William Maclean

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