A man was shot dead in police firing in Telangana’s Secunderabad, trains went up in flames, and public and private vehicles were attacked, as railway stations and highways turned into battleground in many states on Friday amid burgeoning protests against Agnipath, the contentious defence recruitment scheme.
Assurances by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah and the Army chief failed to cut ice with hordes of angry youth, carrying bamboo sticks and stones, storming railway premises across cities and small towns and laying siege to highways, creating a security scare.
Over 300 trains have been affected and more than 200 cancelled so far due to the protests, the Railways said, reflecting the enormity of the agitation.
Coaches of seven trains have so far been set ablaze by protesters, officials said, adding carriages of three running trains in the East Central Railway (ECR), headquartered in Bihar’s Hajipur, and one empty rake in Kulharia, also in the same zone, were damaged by protestors.
One coach of a train was also damaged in the washing line at Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia. So far, 64 trains were short terminated in ECR.
As the depredations against the recruitment scheme continued for the third day across large parts of India, from Uttar Pradesh to Telangana and Bihar to Madhya Pradesh, Rajnath Singh, Amit Shah and Army chief Gen Manoj Pande tried to assuage the concerns of the agitators with little success.
The Army chief said the government’s Thursday night decision to raise the upper age limit to 23 years from 21 under the scheme in 2022 will provide an opportunity to youths who were preparing to join the force but couldn’t in the last two years.
The Centre’s decision to increase the upper age limit will benefit a large number of youth, Shah said. He added that the recruitment process in the Army had been affected for the last two years due to the Covid pandemic and Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a sensitive decision by showing concern for the youth of the country.