Bandh against Agnipath sees scattered protests


Army issues notification for registration by aspirants

New Delhi/Patna: Road and rail traffic was partially affected in some regions on Monday during a ‘Bharat bandh’ called against the Agnipath military recruitment scheme, while protesters appeared to taper off in many states with authorities stepping up security and imposing curbs after days of unrest.

The Army issued a notification for compulsory online registration of all Agnipath job aspirants from July, as the Center appeared firm on implementing the scheme despite the Congress and other Opposition parties upping the ante against the Narendra Modi government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

A plea has also been filed in the Supreme Court against the Agnipath scheme alleging that government has contravened constitutional provisions and acted without having the approval. The plea, filed by advocate ML Sharma, referred to the petitions as it sought quashing of the relevant notification.

The Railways canceled 602 trains on Monday, while ten others were affected with operations again disrupted by protests. The worst-affected zone was the East Central Railway, which is headquartered at Hajipur, as around 350 trains remained canceled.

Authorities said the bandh call was given on social media and did not name the organizations behind it. Massive traffic jams were witnessing on Delhi roads as restrictions were in place due to the bandh and the Satyagraha protest by Congress over the Center’s Agnipath scheme and the questioning of Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate.

Indian Youth Congress workers stopped a train at the Shivaji Bridge railway station near Connaught Place. Sixteen protestors were detained and the track was cleared by security personnel after about half an hour, sources said.

Commuters from Noida and Gurugram were left hassled as they battled traffic snarls while driving into the city whereas inside the capital, Lutyens’ Delhi, which was the epicentre of protests, remained chock-a-bloc. While the strike call choked traffic on several arterial roads, no impact was seen in the city’s markets where it was business as usual.

In view of the bandh call, the Delhi police had tightened security across the national capital and its bordering areas and warned of strict action against those trying to disrupt the law and order situation

Other states like Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Kerala, Assam and Rajasthan had also heightened security and imposed prohibitory orders in some districts to thwart possible protests and violence during the strike.

There was a heavy deployment of police at railway stations, including those in Ambala, Rewari and Sonipat in Haryana and Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar in Punjab to prevent any untoward incident. Protests were reported in some parts of Haryana, Punjab and Jammu.

“Bharat Bandh call was given on social media though no group had owned it. The police were on alert since Monday morning with elaborate arrangements being made with vast deployment of the force,” Uttar Pradesh Additional Director General of Police (law and order) Prashant Kumar said. As many as 151 companies of state and central paramilitarysides the civil police were behaving, he said adding that no untoward incident has been reported from anywhere. “There has been no impact of the Bharat Bandh call anywhere in the state,” he said.

More than 5,000 security personnel were in Jharkhand and schools remained shut across the state in view of the bandh call. There was no report of any untoward incident from anywhere in the state so far during the day, Jharkhand police spokesperson and IG (Operations) Amol Homkar said. Shops and business establishments remained open in capital Ranchi, the steel city of Jamshedpur, Palamu and elsewhere. There was tight security at Ranchi railway station and security forces staged a flag march in Koderma

In Bihar, which had seen large-scale violence, internet services remained suspended in 17 out of 38 districts and heavy deployment of police and paramilitary forces continued in places.

In the backdrop of the protests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday said decisions and reforms may be unpleasant temporarily but with time the country will experience their benefits.

In its Monday notification, the Army said the online registration for the force’s recruitment can be done on www.Joinindianarmy.Nic.In and is mandatory for all the job aspirants under the new model.

The Army said Agnivers would form a distinct rank in the Indian Army, which would be different from any other existing ranks. It said the Agnivers will be barred from disclosing classified information gained during the four-year service period to any unauthorized person or source under the Official Secrets Act, 1923.

Hundreds of people have been arrested and the role of coaching centers is being probed in connection with the violent protests that broke out after the Center last Tuesday unveiled the Agnipath scheme.

Service chiefs to call on PM

New Delhi: The three Service chiefs are likely to call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi separately on Tuesday to brief him about the Agnipath scheme as well as their plan for its implementation.

The meetings are being planned amid widespread protests in several states against the new military recruitment scheme. The chiefs will apprise the Prime Minister about various aspects of the scheme.

There was no official word about the meetings between the Prime Minister and the Service chiefs.

Several parts of the country witness violent protests after the new military recruitment model was announced on June 14. The Agnipath scheme provides for recruitment of youth between the age bracket of 17-and-half years to 21 for only four years with a provision to retain 25% of them for 15 more years.

Days later, the government extended the upper age limit to 23 years for recruitment in 2022. The personnel to be recruited under the new scheme will be known as Agniveers.

Several Opposition parties as well as military veterans criticizing the scheme questioning the four-year-tenure for 75% of the recruits.

The government has been strongly defending the scheme, saying the “transformative reform” measure for recruitment into the armed forces will provide an opportunity to the youth to serve the nation.

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