July 7, 2022

Great Indian Mutiny

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Violent protests erupt in India against new military recruitment plan

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At least one protester has been killed in clashes with police as violence continues in some parts of the country. Angered by the new Armed Forces entry policy, it will lower the eligibility age to 17 but reduce the service to just four years with the aim of reducing costs and pensions. Many potential recruiters are worried about job opportunities.

The rejection of the new short-term military force plan is fueling violent protests in India.

Thousands of enraged youths set fire to train carriages and vehicles, blocked roads, pelted police with stones and damaged government buildings. At least one person was killed in the clashes with civilians.

Uniformed men responded with batons and tear gas in an attempt to disperse the crowd, which had spread to several cities. The protests have turned violent in states like Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan.

Sanjay Singh, a senior police official in Bihar, said, “Trains have been blocked at 10 places today.

Smoke billowed from the passenger train as protesters set fire to the train during a protest against a “fire project” that would reduce the working hours for new recruits in the armed forces to just four years. On June 17, 2022 in Secunderabad, Telangana, the southern state of India. © Reuters / Stringer

The local newspaper ‘Hindustan Times’ reported that strong footage had come after at least 125 protesters were arrested this Friday, June 17. But the arrests did not force thousands, and they returned to the streets.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh alone, protests erupted in 14 districts, and senior local police officer Prasanth Kumar confirmed that officers fired into the air to disperse the stone-throwing crowd.

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Agnipath, the new military recruitment system has provoked outrage

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government this week unveiled a new entry plan for the armed forces, known as the “Path of Fire” in Agnibad or Hindi.

The organization wants to reduce the age of entry for men and women into the military at 17 and 21, but with four years and a shorter contract in unofficial positions. After that, only a quarter of those hired, 25% will remain in the company. That is, the remaining 75% must be withdrawn.

Dozens of protesters ran into the train station with batons during the protest "Agnibad Project", A new system for recruiting personnel for the Armed Forces.  On June 17, 2022, in Patna, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.
Dozens of protesters are running with batons at a train station during a protest against the new organization “Fire Project”, which recruits personnel for the armed forces. On June 17, 2022, in Patna, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. © Reuters / Stringer

The main objective of the Modi administration is to reduce the pension expenditure of the Armed Forces, which currently has 1.38 million troops.

But many avoid getting hired, worrying about job opportunities after they finish their four-year term and losing their pensions.

Avnish Kumar, a 19-year-old from Pallia district in Uttar Pradesh, one of the many who had hoped to join the army, now says he is disappointed with the new recruitment policy.

“The duration of employment is only four years, after which only 25% will get a job. There is no pension,” he stressed.

Until now, veterans in this country have been listed separately in the Army, Navy and Air Force, and generally serve in the lowest ranks for up to 17 years.

Upon reaching high ranks, a soldier can serve in India for more than 35 years.

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VP Malik, a retired senior officer in the Indian Army, said the youth were disappointed. In an interview with The Times of India, he said, “The government and the armed forces should do more to justify the plan and explain it to the youth.”

A group of police officers carrying the injured during the protest against the protest "Agnibad Project", A new system for recruiting personnel for the Armed Forces.  On June 17, 2022 in Secunderabad, Telangana, the southern state of India.
A group of policemen carrying an injured opponent during the fight against the “Agnipat project”, a new organization for recruiting armed forces. On June 17, 2022 in Secunderabad, Telangana, the southern state of India. © Reuters / Stringer

The Indian government is defending itself against criticism

In addition to military optimists, the Modi government faces fierce criticism from the opposition and veterans. Even some members of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) say the move will create more unemployment in the country, which is already mired in a low employment rate.

For his part, Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh backed the plan, assuring that its aim was to “strengthen the security of the country”. With 1.4 million active personnel, the Indian Army is the second largest and third largest exporter in the world after China.

The government expects to hire about 46,000 people under the new system this year.

With Reuters, AP and local media