As the Indian army’s recruitment plan approaches its implementation date of June 18 2022, protests have increased and turned violent. Youths have burned tires on highways and damaged police cars and buses. After the recruitment announcement, the protests have spread to other states and national capitals, with violence reaching Jharand, Uttarakhand, and Rajasthan. The government has promised to change the plan, but the protesters say the move will not go as planned.
Last week, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government unveiled the Agnipath military recruitment scheme, which would recruit 46,000 young men and women on four-year contracts, with only a quarter of them remaining on the permanent payroll. The new recruitment plan has sparked a backlash and violent protests across the country, with at least one person killed. Hundreds of protesters have blocked roads, burned tires, and destroyed public property. The protests continued on Monday, as demonstrators demanded that the new military recruitment plan be withdrawn and the old ones kept in service.
While some have questioned the motives behind the government’s Agnipath scheme, security experts believe the main aim of the scheme is to save money on pensions. The government’s 2022-2023 defence budget will be around $70 billion, which includes about $16 billion in pensions. However, the budget for defence remains stagnant, with almost half of the money going towards pensions and salaries for active soldiers.
In Bihar, protesters burned public property and ransacked railway station offices. Protesters are demanding that the government cancel the new military policy and hire young people instead. At least one protester was killed by police during a clash with the police in Masaurhi railway station. The protests in Bihar and Delhi have forced dozens of trains to be cancelled.
Amidst the growing opposition to the policy, the government mobilised to sell the new plan as a “golden opportunity” for more Indian youths. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh defended the recruitment plan by saying that it would raise the age limit for new recruits to 23 for one year. Further, officials suggested that even a short stint in the army would benefit those with other ambitions. But despite the positive spin, the recruitment plan continues to draw ire from protesters and policymakers alike.
Hundreds of people have taken to the streets in protest over the new recruitment plan. In Bihar, angry mobs have set fire to train cars and damaged public property. In Uttar Pradesh, police have temporarily shut down the internet in almost a third of the state. In Telangana, tensions are running high. Protesters have blocked trains and a bus and have smashed shops.