India cancels train services as protests loom over military recruitment

Jun 21, 2022: According to a report by Reuters, authorities in India cancelled more than 500 train services on Monday because of calls for protests by young men angry with a military recruitment plan that they say will rob them of the opportunity of a career in the armed forces.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government last week unveiled the plan called Agnipath, or “path of fire”, aimed at bringing more people into the military on short, four-year contracts to lower the average age of India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces.

Analysts say the scheme will also help cut burgeoning pension costs. Meanwhile the protesters say it will deprive them of the opportunity of a permanent job in the military, and with it a guaranteed pension, other allowances and social status.

Leaders of the opposition Congress party met Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to seek withdrawal of the scheme.

But top defence officials said on Sunday the plan was aimed at modernising the forces and would not be withdrawn despite protests by many thousands of young men who have attacked and torched trains and clashed with police since last week.

One person has been killed and police have arrested more than 300 protesters.

The railway ministry said in statement more than 500 trains had been called off on Monday in view of calls for protest strikes.

Under the scheme, 46,000 cadets will be recruited this year on four-year terms and 25% of them will be kept on after the four years. Hiring starts this month.

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