Protesters in India set fire to trains over plans for new short-term military jobs


Trains have been set on fire as thousands of people took part in protests in India against a new military recruitment system.

Police used batons and tear gas to break up demonstrations in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan states after young people took to the streets and damaged government buildings.

In Bihar, the worst-hit area in the east of the country, almost 25,000 police were deployed after demonstrations spread to a dozen towns in eight districts.

Protesters blocked roads and attacked railway property, as trains were set alight, rail tracks damaged and a station was vandalised.

Also, an office of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was set on fire in Nawada city, in the state.

The government is planning a new jobs programme which would allow the armed forces to recruit 46,000 men and women aged 17-and-a-half to 21 at non-officer level but only for four years.

After that just 25% of them will be retained, and the other 75% will not be entitled to pension benefits.

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Previously, soldiers have been recruited by the army, navy and air force separately and typically enter service for up to 17 years for the lowest ranks.

The shorter tenure has led to worries among potential recruits.

Bihar was the worst-hit state

“Where will we go after working for only four years?” said one young man, surrounded by fellow protesters in Bihar’s Jehanabad district. “We will be homeless after four years of service. So we have jammed the roads.”


But defence minister Rajnath Singh defended the plans, saying they aim to “strengthen the security of the country”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government are facing pressure to create jobs in India as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

One idea behind the short-term military recruitment is that those trained in the forces can later seek private-sector jobs or employment in the police force.

The government, which will face a general election in 2024, has been criticised by some retired soldiers and opposition leaders.

“I thought initially it was a trial being done on a pilot basis,” GD Bakshi, a retired army general, wrote on Twitter.

“This is an across-the-board change to convert Indian armed forces to a short tenure quasi-conscript force.”

Demonstrators surround burning tyres on a street as they protest against "Agnipath scheme" for recruiting personnel for armed forces, in Jehanabad, Bihar, India June 16, 2022 in this still image obtained from a handout video. ANI/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. INDIA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN INDIA.
Demonstrators in Jehanabad

The opposition Congress Party’s leader, Rahul Gandhi, urged the government to “listen to the voice of the unemployed youth of the county”.

In the city of Gwalior in central India, a railway station was ransacked and some trains were vandalised and bins were set on fire.

In the northern town of Rewari, police used wooden sticks to disperse the protesters, who had blocked a bus station and parts of a key highway linking the Rajasthan state with New Delhi, according to reports.


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