Agnipath scheme: More protests in Haryana, damage caused in Ludhiana railway station

Chandigarh, Jun 18 (PTI) The protests against the Agnipath scheme continued in Haryana with some youths setting a vehicle on fire outside Mahendergarh railway station on Saturday while a group of over 50 agitators barged inside Ludhiana railway station in Punjab causing damage to property.

A police official from Mahendergarh, which has seen strong protests against the defence recruitment scheme over past few days, said that a group of youth set a pick-up van on fire and indulged in vandalism.

A railway engineer at Mahendergarh, whose residential quarter is adjacent to the railway station, said that some protesters barged inside his building complex and damaged office, and a generator set.

In Punjab, a group of over 50 youths, who had their faces covered with a cloth, barged inside the Ludhiana railway complex. As some were carrying sticks they smashed many glass pane and ticket counters, police said.

The protesters were demanding that recruitment to Army should be held like earlier.

Some passengers who were to catch a train to various destinations in UP and Bihar said a group of youth suddenly barged inside and started breaking the glass panes.

In Jalandhar, youths took out a march and later held protest. They took out protest march from Rama Mandi chowk to PAP chowk and blocked the national highway and demanded that the Centre should withdraw the Agnipath scheme.

Earlier on Friday, job aspirants had staged a protest in Hoshiarpur district against the Centre's Agnipath scheme and demanded its rollback.

Meanwhile, protests against the Agnipath scheme continued in many parts of Haryana.

Youths also held a protest in Sonipat and blocked Rohtak-Panipat highway. In Kaithal they took out protest march while protests were also held in Fatehabad and Jind.

On Friday, Haryana Home Minister Anil Vij had warned of action against those indulging in violence and damaging public property.

The Centre on Tuesday unveiled the ambitious Agnipath scheme for the recruitment of youths aged between 17 and a half and 21 in Army, Navy and Air Force, largely on a four-year short-term contractual basis.

On Thursday night, it raised the upper age limit for recruitment under the 'Agnipath' scheme to 23 years for 2022 as the protests against the new model for enrolment of soldiers into the three services spread.

Those recruited under the scheme will be known as 'Agniveers'. After the completion of the four-year tenure, 25 per cent of the recruits from each batch will be offered regular service.

Haryana districts like Rewari, Charkhi Dadri, Gurugram and Palwal send a sizeable number of youths to the defence forces.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday held a meeting with the top brass of the Army, Navy and the Air Force on the overall situation arising out of the rollout of the 'Agnipath' military recruitment scheme as protests against it intensified in several parts of the country.

The youths to be recruited under the new scheme would be called 'Agniveer'. A major objective of the scheme is to bring down the average age of military personnel and cut ballooning salary and pension bills.

The announcement of the new scheme came in the backdrop of recruitments into the military remaining stalled over the coronavirus pandemic for over two years.