Widespread protests against the ‘Agnipath’ scheme for the recruitment of armed forces have spread to several districts in Uttar Pradesh.
Bulandshahr, Meerut, Agra, Mathura, Varanasi, Unnao, Gorakhpur, Gonda, Rae Bareli and Ballia are among the districts that have witnessed protests, with youth demanding the scheme’s withdrawal.
In several districts, the police had to resort to lathi charge and fire teargas shells to disperse the mob.
In Bulandshahr, protesters blocked the busy GT Road.
“We strongly oppose the new recruitment scheme. We want the old recruitment scheme back,” one of the protesters said.
Bulandshahr Superintendent of Police, Shlok Kumar said: “Some youngsters gathered to stage a protest in the morning. They later called it off on the assurance given by police officials.”
Ballia was the worst affected district since protesters set bogies of the Sealdah Express on fire, vandalised railway property and then attacked shops and kiosks outside the station.
Job aspirants pelted stones at a government bus in Agra, triggering deployment of additional police personnel to control the situation.
In Firozabad, protesters vandalised roadways buses.
Youth also gathered along the Agra-Delhi highway, seeking the revival of the old recruitment policy in the armed forces. Traffic was blocked for several hours on this route.
Agra Senior Superintendent of Police, Sudhir Kumar Singh, said: “A large number of students come to Agra to prepare for exams through coaching centres. These job aspirants reached here and blocked the road.”
In Rae Bareli and Gonda, the protesters raised slogans and blocked traffic.
The Agnipath scheme was announced on June 14 to recruit jawans into the Army, Navy and the Air Force for a four-year period followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.
Under the new policy, 25 per cent of the jawans would get a chance for permanent recruitment on the basis of their performance.