NEW DELHI: Security has been beefed up in several states on Monday amid protests against the Centre's new Agnipath recruitment scheme.
After the policy, which allows Indian youths to serve in the regular cadre of the Armed Forces for a period of four years, was announced on June 14, protests erupted in various states including Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Haryana, Telangana, Odisha, West Bengal, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Jharkhand and Assam.
As the agitation intensified in some places, protestors went on the rampage setting trains on fire, torching vehicles and damaging both private and public properties.
Congress will also hold "peaceful" protests across the country on Monday against the "anti-youth" Agnipath recruitment scheme.
Taking to Twitter, Congress General Secretary in-charge Communications Jairam Ramesh said on Sunday, "Tomorrow lakhs of Congress workers across the country will continue peaceful protests against the anti-youth Agnipath scheme and against Modi government's vendetta politics targeting its MP Rahul Gandhi."
Several organisations will stage protests against the Agnipath scheme at Jantar Mantar in the national capital today.
Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai too will join the protest. "A joint movement will be organized at Jantar Mantar in Delhi at 11 am on June 20 against the Agnipath scheme," Rai had said in a tweet on Friday. A total of 46,000 Agniveers will be recruited this year but a top military officer said it will go up to 1.25 lakhs in near future.
The entry age for all new recruits in the Armed Forces has been fixed as 17.5 to 21 years of age.
However, following protests, the Central government announced an increase in the upper age limit for the recruitment of Agniveers from 21 years to 23 years for the recruitment cycle of 2022 as it has not been possible to undertake the recruitment during the last two years. Meanwhile, police in several states have announced measures and tightened security for June 20 protest.
In Delhi's neighbouring areas Faridabad and Noida, Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), which prohibits the assembly of four or more persons, has been imposed.
Uttar Pradesh Police said that strict action will be taken against those found involved in jeopardising peace.
"Amid protests against Agnipath Scheme, anti-social elements may jeopardise peace. Section 144 imposed in Gautam Buddha Nagar and strict action will be taken against those found involved in such incidents," said Ashutosh Dwivedi, ADCP, Law and Order, Noida.
In Rajasthan's Jaipur, prohibitory orders under section 144 have been imposed from 6 pm on Sunday till midnight of August 18 in the view of the possibility of disturbance to law and order due to the protests.
Punjab Police's ADGP Law and Order has directed the CPs and SSPs across the state to be on alert and asked them to monitor the activities of social media groups which are actively mobilizing or spreading instigating information about the scheme.
As a precautionary measure, all schools in Jharkhand will remain closed today in the wake of the protests called by certain organisations, the state education official informed on Sunday.
All schools in Bihar's Muzaffarpur will also remain shut, as per the order by the district administration. While the government points out that the 'Agnipath' scheme gives a golden opportunity to the youth to join the defence system and serve the country, Congress had said the recruitment policy is controversial, carries multiple risks, subverts the long-standing traditions and ethos of the armed forces and there is no guarantee that the soldiers recruited under the scheme will be better trained and motivated to defend the country.
Agniveers will be enrolled for a service duration of 4 years including the training period. After four years, only 25 per cent of the Agniveers will be retained or re-enlisted in the regular cadre based on merit, willingness and medical fitness.
These 25 per cent Agniveers will then serve for a full term of another 15 years. As the protests continue, a senior Army officer on Sunday clarified that the scheme will not be rolled back and said that it is the "only progressive step to make the country young".
Meanwhile, the registration process for the first batch of Agniveers under the Centre's new Agnipath recruitment scheme will begin on June 24 and the online examination would be held on July 24. Congress has urged the government to keep the Agnipath scheme in abeyance, hold wide consultations with serving and retired officers, and address the issues of quality, efficiency and economy without compromising on any of the three considerations.
Addressing the concerns over the future of Agniveers and their job security, the Centre approved a proposal to reserve 10 per cent of the job vacancies in the Ministry of Defence for Agniveers meeting requisite eligibility criteria and also decided to give priority to them in the recruitment of the Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) and Assam Rifles.
Several state governments like Assam, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Arunachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Karnataka have announced to give Agniveers priority in state government jobs.
Protests have disrupted rail services in several parts of the country. A total of 491 train services have been affected throughout the country due to the ongoing agitation, informed railway officials on Sunday.