Agnipath protests in Odisha, agitators-police face-off in Cuttack

by IANS |

Bhubaneswar, June 17 (IANS) The protests against the Central government's Agnipath scheme for the recruitment in the armed forces on Friday erupted in Odisha's Cuttack city where the agitators blocked roads and had a face-off with the police.

Demanding scrapping of the new scheme, age relaxation and conduct of the common entrance examination (CEE) for recruitment in the armed forces, hundreds of job aspirants staged an agitation before the army recruiting office at the Cantonment Road in Cuttack, police said.

Some of the aspirants tore the road-side hoardings and brake-down police barricades. The protesting aspirants also had a face-off with the police while trying to block the Ring Road disrupting traffic services. As the situation turned tense, police resorted to mild lathi-charge to disperse the agitators.

"Over a thousand students have gathered to lodge their grievances before the army office. Some of them moved to another place and were aggrieved. However, police immediately swung into action and controlled the situation," said Cuttack Deputy Commissioner of Police, Pinak Mishra.

"We have detained some students. After interrogation, we will relieve them," he said. About five platoons of police force were deployed in various places of the city to control the agitators, Mishra added.

One of the agitating aspirants said they have already qualified the physical fitness and medical tests in the Indian army. However, the written examination, which is the final test, has not been conducted despite announcing dates several times, he said.

Meanwhile, the Centre announced this Agnipath scheme. "We have already spent several crucial years of our career to join the army. Where should we go now?," he asked.

"If a politician becomes an MLA or MP, he/she is entitled to get pension. But, if we join the army to serve our motherland and may sacrifice our life, we will not get the benefit," said another army aspirant.

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.

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