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Bharat Bandh call over ‘Agnipath’, high alert, 500 trains hit

New Delhi: With the government standing its ground on the ‘Agnipath’ military recruitment scheme, some organisations have called for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on Monday amid the ongoing protests demanding a rollback of the plan.

Over 500 trains have been cancelled today in view of the Bharat Bandh call in parts of the country over the centre’s ‘Agnipath’ short-term recruitment plan for armed forces. The railways has suffered a major loss of property due to arson and rioting by the protesters over the last five days.

Parts of Delhi witnessed traffic jams as the police have tightened security across the city and its bordering areas. Massive traffic jams were witnessed at Delhi-Noida Direct Flyway and the Delhi-Gurgaon Expressway as well. The police have warned of strict action against any person trying to disturb the law and order situation.

Congress leaders have sat on a ‘Satyagraha’ at Jantar Mantar in the national capital to express solidarity with the armed forces aspirants protesting against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme. Some Youth Congress workers were detained after they stopped a train at the Shivaji Bridge railway station near Connaught Place.

In Haryana, a group of armed forces aspirants blocked the Lal Batti Chowk in Fatehabad, while several others staged a protest on roads in Rohtak district. Security has been stepped up at several locations in Kerala, Telangana, West Bengal and Rajasthan also to avoid any untoward incident. In Faridabad and Noida, prohibitory orders have been imposed that prohibit the assembly of four or more persons.

Uttar Pradesh Police said strict action will be taken against those found involved in jeopardising peace. In Punjab, the police have been asked to monitor the activities of social media groups which are allegedly mobilising or spreading instigating information about the scheme.

The Bihar government has increased security at party offices considered vulnerable. As of now, internet services remain shut in 20 districts. In Jharkhand, all schools will remain closed today amid protests against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme.

The three services of the military on Sunday came out with a broad schedule of enrolment under the ‘Agnipath’ scheme and warned those who indulged in violence and arson will not be inducted.

The Home and Defence ministries on Saturday promised new 10 per cent quotas each in jobs for ‘Agnipath’ recruits after their four-year tenure in the armed forces. Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that the PSUs under his housing and petroleum ministries are also working on plans to induct ‘Agniveers’.

The Home Ministry has further decided to give 3 years of age relaxation beyond the prescribed upper age limit to Agniveers for recruitment in Central Armed Police Forces and Assam Rifles. Earlier, the Centre raised the upper age limit for recruitment to 23 years for 2022 as a one-time measure in a bid to pacify the protesters.

Protests erupted in several states since Wednesday against the Centre’s Agnipath scheme for the recruitment of soldiers between 17.5 and 21 years in the armed forces for a four-year period, followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.