India faces growing wave of protests – RT World News
Furious protesters set fire to government building over new military recruitment system
Angry crowds have taken to the streets of India over the past two days to protest the government’s proposed overhaul of the country’s military recruitment system, which critics say could lead to unemployment and jeopardize security .
As Reuters reported, the protests first erupted in the eastern state of Bihar on Wednesday and have since spread to neighboring states such as Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. Agitated youths have so far reportedly set fire to a ruling party office, attacked railway infrastructure, torched several trains and cars, blocked roads and lit tires in the streets, according to Indian police officials.
Authorities tried to keep protesters at bay and police reportedly fired warning shots in the northern state of Haryana after mobs threw rocks at the home of a government official . There is currently no information on potential victims.
Meanwhile, in Palwal district, Haryana, local authorities have decided to cut off mobile internet access for the next 24 hours in an attempt to prevent further chaos.
The outrage comes after Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government announced an overhaul of the recruitment process for India’s 1.38million-strong army, aimed at lowering the average age of military personnel and cutting public expenses.
Under the new system, dubbed ‘Agnipath’ (Path of Fire), men and women between the ages of 17½ and 21 will only be able to join the Indian Armed Forces for a term of four years, and only one out of four, recruits will be allowed to return to serve on a permanent basis.
The old system, however, allowed young people between the ages of 16½ and 21 to enlist in the army for a minimum term of 15 years and also granted them a pension for their service. For this reason, serving in the military was seen as an attractive career path for many young people, as it offered stable pay and social housing.
Agnipath would make these opportunities inaccessible to most young Indians, who already face a staggering 26% unemployment rate.
“Where will we go after working only four years? a protester told Indian news agency ANI. « We will be homeless after four years of service. »
The new system has sparked heated debate among the country’s potential recruits, military veterans, opposition leaders and even members of Modi’s ruling party, and protesters are now calling on the government to reverse the announced reform.
« We demand that recruitment be done as before » said another protester, adding that, « No one wants to go to the military for just four years. »
A member of Modi’s BJP party, Varun Gandhi, wrote an open letter to Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday, warning that under the new system, 75% of those recruited would find themselves unemployed after the expiry of their their four-year contract.
« Every year, this number will increase », he warned in a post on social networks.
When India faces threats on two fronts, Agnipath’s unwarranted plan reduces the operational effectiveness of our armed forces. The BJP government must stop compromising the dignity, traditions, bravery and discipline of our forces.
—Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) June 15, 2022
Other politicians have pointed out that the proposed four-year term for new recruits would be insufficient to maintain the effectiveness of the Indian Army. Rahul Gandhi, the leader of the main opposition party, said in a tweet that, « When India faces threats on two fronts, Agnipath’s unwarranted program reduces the operational effectiveness of our armed forces, » adding that the ruling party must « Stop compromising the dignity, traditions, valor and discipline of our forces. »
The government has defended the proposal, arguing that it will bring more « young profile » to the Indian Army and bring about transformational change towards more tech-savvy armed forces.
The Agnipath system aims to introduce a total of 46,000 young people into the regular framework of the armed forces this year, where they are expected to acquire various military skills and experiences, discipline, physical fitness, leadership qualities, courage and patriotism.
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