Highlights

  • Over 6 districts affected by Agnipath protests
  • Stone pelting, arson reported in many places
  • Protesters angry over the provisions under the scheme

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Agnipath protests rock Uttar Pradesh | On camera

Protests over the Agnipath scheme erupted in at least six districts of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, with slogan-shouting young men blocking roads and pelting stones.

Protests over the Agnipath scheme erupted in at least six districts of Uttar Pradesh on Thursday, with slogan-shouting young men blocking roads and pelting stones.

According to a bulletin issued by the North Eastern Railway, due to the sit-in demonstration against the scheme, operation of 21 trains on Gorakhpur-Chhapra, Chhapra-Ballia, Siwan-Thawe, Chhapra-Masrakh-Thawe, Varanasi-Ghazipur- and Varanasi-Prayagraj rail sections of Varanasi division was affected.

The trains had to be halted at various stations because of the protest.

The protesters hurled stones at buses in Aligarh and Agra. Protests also broke out in Bulandshahr, Mathura, Firozabad and Ballia districts over the new scheme that envisages a short four-year term for soldiers in the three armed forces entailing no gratuity or pension upon retirement.

Authorities stopped trains at Ballia and the neighbouring districts as a precautionary measure.

The aspirants took to the streets opposing the Agnipath scheme which the Centre announced on Tuesday to recruit jawans into the army, the navy and the air force for a four-year-period followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.

It also drew sharp criticism from rival party leaders, including former Uttar Pradesh chief ministers Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati.

In Aligarh, the youths pelted stones at a passenger bus on the highway connecting the district to Ghaziabad. While some window panes of the bus were broken, no passenger was injured in the incident, officials said.

Vehicular traffic in Aligarh was affected for over two hours. Senior police officers persuaded the protesters to vacate the highway and assured them that their demands would be conveyed to the authorities concerned.

Superintendent of Police (City) Kuldeep Singh later told the media that the protesters had been dispersed and normal road traffic restored on the national highway. In Agra, the aspirants not only pelted stones at a government bus in Bah, but they also blocked NH-2, the Agra-Jaipur highway and MG Road, sources said.

However, none was injured in the protests, they added. A similar protest was reported from a village under Mahua Khera police station limits.

ALSO WATCH: Agnipath protests: Group of men enter railway station in UP's Ballia, damage railway property

"This scheme will affect the future of those candidates who want to serve the nation for 10 years and not just for four years," a protester requesting anonymity said.

Another student Satyaprakash demanded that the written exam for vacancies announced last year be conducted.

Agra Senior Superintendent of Police Sudhir Kumar Singh told reporters that the SP (City) and other police personnel reached the spot and the situation is under control. The aspirants have been asked to place their demands peacefully, he said.

In Mathura, protesters blocked the Agra-Delhi route, paralysing traffic between Agra and Mathura and Mathura and Gwalior link road for over two hours. The traffic was cleared following persuasion by police officials.

In Firozabad district, a group of youths staged a protest against the scheme in Shikohabad area.

Protests were held in Bulandhshar, Firozabad and Ballia, too, but the candidates dispersed after the district administration and police officers spoke to them and assured that their demands will be conveyed to the authorities concerned.

In Ballia and neighbouring districts, movement of some trains was affected due to the protests, an official said.

Some passenger trains were affected due to the protest, an official said. Train 12562 Swatantrata Sainani Express chugging from Delhi to Jai Nagar on the Varanasi-Chhapra rail section was halted at Ballia Railway Station at 10.47 am, North Eastern Railways' Public Relations Officer Ashok Kumar said.

Train 14006 Lichchavi Express was halted at Bhatni railway station at 10.25 am and train 15054 Lucknow Chhapra Express at Ghazipur railway station at 11.25 am. This was done as a precautionary measure in the wake of protests in Ballia and some districts of Bihar neighbouring Uttar Pradesh, he said.

ALSO WATCH: Agnipath scheme protest: youth shot dead in Telangana, several others injured

Attaching a video of the protesters demanding the withdrawal of the scheme, Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Akhilesh Yadav slammed the "misuse of force" on the "future armed forces of the country" alleging that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was "betraying the country and patriotic youth by contractualising the armed forces".

"The proclamation of Bharat Mata must not be a false pretence but a symbol of true patriotism," he tweeted.

Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati termed the scheme "unfair towards rural youth".

In a series of tweets, she said the scheme will "add to the woes" of the people already beset with inflation and poverty.

The Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) has announced protests at all district headquarters in Uttar Pradesh against the Agnipath scheme on Saturday.

The RLD on Thursday also announced a campaign named 'Yuva Panchayat' in support of the youth in western Uttar Pradesh in the coming days to pressure the government to withdraw the new initiative for temporary recruitments in the armed forces. The announcement was made by RLD chief Jayant Chaudhary on social media.

"Maafi Veer Adarsh, Jumla Veer Pracharak, Bhashan Veer Neta - Do not make the Indian Armed Forces 'Agnivir'," Chaudhary said in a cryptic tweet in Hindi.

The 'Yuva Panchayat' will kick-off on June 28 from Shamli and similar youth congregations will be held in Mathura, Muzaffarnagar, Bijnor, Bulandshahr, Amroha, Moradabad, Aligarh, Agra, Ghaziabad and will be culminated in Baghpat on July 16, according to the party's schedule.

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