Agnipath Protestors Burn Trains In Bihar, Pelt Stones On BJP MLA As Agitation Spreads Across India

Protesters, consisting mainly of defence forces aspirants, disrupted railway and road traffic in several parts of Bihar on Tuesday while protesters took to streets in Rajasthan and other states in protests against the Agniveer scheme.

Agniveer protests in Bihar

Widespread protests broke out in the country following the government's announcement of the Agnipath scheme for the Indian Army.  The Union cabinet has approved the "transformative" scheme on Tuesday. Under the scheme, hiring of jawans would take place on a short-term contractual basis, leading to objections by critics and protests among aspirants preparing for jobs in defence forces. The latter blocked the movement of trains and general road traffic in several location in Bihar on Thursday. While protests continued in Bihar and Rajasthan, the demonstrations spread to other parts of the country as well. 

Stone pelting in Bihar, trains burnt

Violent protests continued in Bihar for a second day on Thursday with protesters, consisting mainly of defence forces aspirants, disrupted railway and road traffic in Jehanabad, Buxar and Nawada districts in Bihar on Thursday. Trains were set afire, window panes of buses smashed and passersby, including a ruling BJP MLA, pelted with stone. 

The movement of trains plying on the Patna-Gaya and Patna-Buxar routes was disrupted by protesters who laid down on the railway tracks in Jehanabad and Buxar districts. The East Central Railway zone, headquartered in Hajipur, reported massive disruption of rail traffic. Busy routes like Patna-Gaya, Barauni-Katihar and Danapur-DDU were listed among those worst-affected by the stir, officials said. In Buxar, station manager Rajan Kumar said many trains were stranded at the outer signal as the tracks were blocked by agitators whom police and administrative officials were trying to pacify.  In Arrah, the railway station was swarmed by a large number of protesters who were dispersed by the police.

Police fired teargas shells and charged baton to disperse the angry youngsters who blocked railway tracks, threw burning tyres on roads and performed push-ups and other drills on the streets as a mark of protest.

In Nawada, the vehicle of BJP MLA Aruna Devi, who was on her way to a court, was attacked by the agitators who hurled stones at her car, leaving five persons, including the legislator, injured. "The protesters seemed to have been provoked by the sight of the party flag, fitted on my car, which they tore. My driver, two security guards and two personal staff members have sustained injuries," the MLA told reporters, adding that she was "too shaken" to have registered a police complaint.

Railway property bore the brunt of the protesters as stationary bogeys were set on fire at Bhabhua and Chhapra stations and window panes of compartments smashed at many places. Demonstrations staged by the protesters disrupted road traffic in districts such as Jehanabad, Buxar, Katihar, Saran, Bhojpur and Kaimur, where many locals sustained injuries in incidents of stone-pelting, the officials said.

Hundreds of agitators blocked National Highway 83 in Jehanabad and burned tyres demanding the scrapping of the scheme. Angry protestors took out processions in the three districts and other parts of the state.

Protestors had disrupted railway and road traffic in various parts of the state also on Wednesday with angry youth pelting stones at a train in Buxar, vandalising public property and causing arson in Muzaffarpur district streets.

Protests in Rajasthan

apart from Bihar, other states also saw protests and demonstrations against the new recruitment policy. Around 150 people blocked the Ajmer-Delhi highway in Jaipur on Wednesday.

According to Kardhani police, around 150 protesters blocked the highway, demanding that recruitment into the armed forces should be done following the earlier method. The protesters were subsequently dispersed and the highway was cleared, adding that 10 people were arrested. However, protests have continued on June 16 following a call for demonstration by RLP leader and Nagaur MP Hanuman Beniwal on Wednesday to oppose the scheme.

Youth cripple traffic in Delhi NCR

Hundreds of youth took to the streets in Bilaspur and Sidhrawali areas of Gurugram and Rewari, some 50 km away from Delhi.  The protesters laid a virtual seize on bus stands and roads, crippling traffic on the Gurugram-Jaipur highway, and held a protest at Bilaspur Chowk.

The protests caused traffic diversions and snarls in surrounding areas. According to reports, police lathi-charged the protesters in a bid to bring the situation under control.

Other states like Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarkhand also saw agitations with protesters blocking roads and damaging public property. 

Why are protesters objecting to Agnipath scheme?

Under the 'Agnipath' scheme, around 45,000 people aged between 17.5 and 21 years will be inducted into the armed forces for a four-year period, following which most of them will have to take compulsory retirement sans pension or gratuity benefits although some will be retained.

Of the total annual recruits, only 25 per cent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.

Under the old system, youths aged between 16.5 and 21 years were selected for a minimum of 15 years of service and used to get pension after retirement. While the Centre as well as state governments have claimed Agniveers will have several options after the four-year service period, many across states remain unconvinced with protesters wondering what they would do after four years and how they would continue to be employed.