Thousands loot train station as protests over India’s military recruitment plan intensify

Protesters in the eastern Indian state of Bihar have damaged public property and looted the offices of a railway station, expressing outrage over a new military recruitment plan and demanding the government take the opposite direction. .

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has introduced a scheme called Agnipath, or “path of fire”, designed to add more people to the army with four-year contracts to reduce the average age of the armed forces. 1.38 million strong India. .

A senior military general, Lieutenant General Anil Puri, told the NDTV news channel that the aim of the plan was to make the army more modern and effective.

Analysts said the new scheme would also help reduce rising pension costs, but opponents believe it would limit permanent job opportunities for defense forces, with implications for salaries, pensions and other benefits.

One person has died this week and more than a dozen have been injured in a series of protests in some parts of the country against the new scheme.

Thousands of youths attacked buses on Saturday, burned tires and clashed with officials at a railway station in Bihar, one of India’s poorest states.

Authorities canceled 369 trains across the country, many of them in riot gear.

Sanjay Singh, a senior police officer who oversees law and order in the state, said at least 12 protesters were arrested and at least four policemen were injured in clashes.

A policeman fires a gun during protests in Patna, Bihar. Photo: Reuters

“About 2,000 to 2,500 people entered the Masaurhi railway station and attacked the forces,” he said.

In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, police arrested at least 250 people under what are called pre-trial detentions. Some protesters accused police of using excessive force.

In an attempt to contain the outrage, the federal government on Saturday announced concessions for those who will serve under the plan.

The Federal Ministry of the Interior announced that it would reserve 10% of the vacancies for paramilitary forces and Assam Rifles, a unit of the Indian Army, for those who have left the army after the four-year period established in the plan.

The Ministry of Defense stated that it would reserve 10% of its vacancies for those who have completed the plan.

“Maybe because it’s a new scheme, people have misunderstood it, but we’ve been discussing it with everyone, including the former military,” Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told a news conference on Saturday.

The plan calls for the retention of 25% of soldiers recruited after four years of service, and the rest has priority for other jobs, such as the state police.

The navy chief said on Friday that the protests were unexpected and probably the result of misinformation about the new system.

“I did not anticipate any such protests,” Admiral R Hari Kumar told ANI. “It is the largest human resource management transformation that has ever taken place in the Indian Army.”

The scheme is not open to women in combat roles and there are no current plans to change it.

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