Here are the key developments:
Agitation held in most districts of Bihar
In Lakhisarai, agitating students set the Bhagalpur-New Delhi Vikramshila Express on fire as soon as the train arrived at the platform. The youths asked passengers to come out from the trains before setting it ablaze.
In Begusarai, students burnt down the ticket booking counter and the waiting area at Lakhminia railway station. Office properties and documents were completely gutted in fire. Students also set Bihiya railway station in Bhojpur on fire.
People set two coaches of the Jammu Tawi-Guwahati Express on fire at Mohiuddinnagar railway station located on Hajipur-Barauni railway section, in Samastipur. In Khagaria, a mob stopped Purnea-Ranchi Kosi Express at Mansi railway station and demanded the rollback of the Centre‘s ‘Agnipath’ scheme.
‘Agnipath’ scheme golden opportunity to serve nation: Rajnath
Union defence minister Rajnath Singh vouched for the government’s decision to approve the ‘Agnipath’ scheme and said that it gives a golden opportunity to the youth to join the defence system and serve the country. “The ‘Agnipath’ scheme by the central government gives a golden opportunity to the youth of the country to join the defence system and serve the country, he said.
“Due to a snag in the recruitment process in the army for two years, many youths did not get the opportunity to join the army. This is a fact. That is why, keeping in mind the future of the youth and showing sensitivity towards them, with the approval of the Prime Minister, the government has decided that this time the age limit for the recruitment of Agniveers should be increased from 21 to 23 years,” he also said.
“This one-time relaxation has been given by the government. This will automatically increase the eligibility of many young people to become Agniveers. The recruitment process is going to start in a few days. I appeal to all the youth to prepare for joining the army and take full advantage of it,” he said.
Notably, the minister is in Jammu and Kashmir since yesterday for a two-day visit to the Union Territory.
Modi can’t hear anything except voice of friends: Rahul Gandhi
Former Congress president Rahul Gandhi alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not understand what the people of the country want as he cannot hear anything except the voice of his “friends”.
He said this a day after the government raised the upper age limit to 23 years from 21 years for recruitment under ‘Agnipath’.
Gandhi also cited schemes such as GST, noteban, farm laws and now ‘Agnipath’, saying they were projected to be for the welfare of the people but were rejected by the citizens.
अग्निपथ – नौजवानों ने नकारा कृषि कानून – किसानों ने नकारा नोटबंदी – अर्थशास्त्रियों ने नकारा GST – व्यापारि… https://t.co/YL7RwMwptC
— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) 1655440093000
Priyanka Gandhi calls for withdrawal of scheme
Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi Vadra urged the Prime Minister to withdraw the scheme as the youth are opposing it with protests.
Noting that the BJP government had to change the rules of the new army recruitment scheme within 24 hours, she said, “This means that the plan has been imposed on the youth in a hurry,” she said. “Narendra Modi ji, please withdraw the scheme immediately,” she said in a tweet and urged him to recruit people in the air force, which has been held back.
“Make the army recruitment the same as before by giving relief in the age limit,” she added.
Mobile internet, SMS suspended in Haryana’s Ballabgarh
Haryana government has suspended mobile internet and SMS services for 24 hours in Ballabhgarh area of Faridabad district as a precautionary measure.
The order, which was issued by the Home department and came into effect after 12am on Friday, led to the suspension of mobile internet services, SMS services, including bulk SMS (excluding banking and mobile recharge), and all dongle services provided on mobile networks to maintain law and order and prevent the spread of rumours, officials said.
The department, in a statement, said that there is a likelihood of “tension, annoyance, obstruction or injury to persons, danger to human life and property, disturbance of public peace and tranquillity” in Ballabgarh sub-division by the agitated protesters, in view of the potential law and order situation in the adjourning Palwal district over the ‘Agnipath’ scheme.
“In order to stop the spread of disinformation and rumours through various social media platforms, on mobile phones and SMS, for facilitation and mobilisation of mobs… in the exercise of powers conferred upon me by virtue of Section 5 of Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 to be read along with Rule (2) of Temporary Suspension of Telecom Services (Public Emergency or Public Safety ) Rules, 2017, Home Secretary, Haryana, I do hereby order the suspension of mobile internet services… all SMS services… and all dongle services etc. provided on mobile networks except the voice call in the territorial jurisdiction of Sub Division Ballabgarh,” the order read.
“All telecom service providers of Haryana are hereby directed to ensure the compliance of this order,” it said.
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Protesters block Howrah Bridge; violence in other parts of Bengal
Train services in the East Central Railway region were badly hit due to the ongoing agitation against Agnipath scheme for recruitment in military services in West Bengal. Protests also led to cancellation of several trains.
Protesters held road blockades on Howrah Bridge and Bhatpara in North 24 Parganas. Similar blockades were also put up at Thakurnagar railway station on Bongaon–Sealdah route throwing train movement off tracks for an hour. Blockades were also been put up at Sevoke Road in Siliguri, hampering movement of hill bound tourists at the start of the weekend.
Agnipath flames reach Varanasi, Ballia
While the railway station was ransacked and a train was set on fire in Ballia, several buses were damaged in Varanasi, the parliamentary constituency of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Friday in protest against the newly introduced Agnipath recruitment scheme in the army.
The police forces were deployed at the railway stations and other places to disperse the gatherings and restore law and order. The North Eastern Railway (NER) cancelled 20 trains in view of the violent protest.
Student groups in Delhi stage protest, several detained
Activists of several student groups, including the left-affiliated AISA, staged a protest here on Friday against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme, and termed it “disastrous”.
The All India Students’ Association said the scheme is nothing but a design to destroy permanent jobs in the armed forces.
The protesters raised slogans — “Agnipath wapas lo, tanashahi nahi chalegi (take back Agnipath, dictatorship won’t work) and also held placards which read ‘Immediately fill all vacant posts in defence on a permanent basis’ and ‘Rollback Aginpath scheme.
Both AISA and Students’ Federation of India (SFI) alleged that several of their members were “brutally detained” .
A senior police officer said 17-18 people had gathered at the ITO to hold a protest. They were detained and immediately removed from the area.
(With agency inputs)