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One dead as Agnipath protests turn violent across India

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Protestors carrying sticks run at a railway station during a protest against the "Agnipath scheme" for recruiting personnel for the armed forces, in Patna, in the eastern state of Bihar, India, on June 17, 2022. (Photo by Reuters)

One person has been killed in India after violence erupted during protests against a new military recruitment process, with Indian authorities imposing restrictive rules on certain gatherings in response.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week unveiled a new recruitment system called Agnipath or “path of fire” in Hindi. In this new recruitment system, the government intends to hire more people with short-term four-year contracts to prevent the growing cost of retirement.

But many said the government’s decision jeopardizes their job security, and they will lose many job opportunities after a four-year contract period. Thousands of Indians took to the streets in at least three Indian states on Friday to protest the decision.

According to reports, protesters set fire to a number of train carriages in the eastern Indian state of Bihar.

Protesters disrupted railways and roads in several parts of Bihar state for the second day since the protests erupted. Trains were set on fire, bus windows were smashed, and angry youths demanded the cancellation of the new plan. Violent protests have now spread to several states across India.

East India Central Railway officials say 22 trains have been forced to cancel and five trains have stopped after several delays.

According to a government official, one protester was killed in a clash with police in the southern city of Secunderabad.

The administration of Gurugram district, south of New Delhi, said no more than four people could gather at one place in an effort to forestall demonstrations.

“This order shall come into force with immediate effect,” Gurugram’s administration said in a notice, a copy of which was posted on social media by the district’s information department.

The new recruitment system has drawn criticism from opposition parties, and even from some members of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who say it will lead to more unemployment in a country grappling with joblessness.

Avnish Kumar, a 19-year-old from Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia, said he was disappointed with the new scheme.

“The tenure of the job is only four years and only 25% of people will get job after that,” he told Reuters. “There is no pension.”

Under the new Agnipath scheme, around 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually, and most will leave the service in just four years. Of the total annual recruits, only 25 percent will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.

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