9 trains torched, roads blocked as protests turn violent in India

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One dead, several injured in police firing in Secunderabad, gatherings banned

Authorities imposed restrictions on Friday on gatherings in a satellite city of India’s capital that is home to offices of several multinational firms, and one person was killed as protests against a new military recruitment process spread.

Nationwide protests against the central government’s Agnipath scheme continued for the third day and it even raged and spread to multiple states. Several others have got injured in Telangana after police allegedly opened fire on hundreds of protesters at Secunderabad railway station.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government unveiled the new recruitment system this week, called Agnipath or “path of fire” in Hindi, triggering turmoil with police firing into the air to break up stone-throwing crowds and the torching of railway infrastructure including nine trains.

The system aims to bring in more people to the military on short, four-year contracts to lower the average age of India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces and cut down on burgeoning pension costs.

But many potential recruits object, concerned about employment opportunities after serving their four-year terms and disappointed to miss out on a pension, and thousands of young men took to the streets on Friday, with protests turning violent in at least three states.

One protester was killed in a clash with police in the southern city of Secunderabad, a government official said.

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 district’s information department.

While there have been no reports of protests in Gurugram, some demonstrators were out in the neighbouring district of Palwal on Thursday.

Some of the world’s major companies have offices in Gurugram including Microsoft Corp MSFT.O, Meta FB.O and Google Inc. GOOGL.O. it is also home to manufacturing facilities of major Indian companies like Maruti Suzuki MRTI.NS.

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. The government has said the armed forces aim to recruit about 46,000 people under the new system this year, and will keep only 25 per cent of them on at the end of their four-year terms.

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, protests erupted in 14 districts, and police fired into the air to push back stone-throwing crowds, senior police official Prashant Kumar said.

Avnish Kumar, a 19-year-old from Uttar Pradesh’s Ballia district who hoped to join the army, said he was disappointed with the new scheme. “The tenure of the job is only four years and only 25 per cent people will get job after that,” he told Reuters by telephone.

 

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