Indian Protests Against Military Recruitment Turn Violent

Protests in India turned violent when at least one person was killed on Friday as police opened fire at furious demonstrators amid a new short-term government military recruitment program.

Star News reported that police opened fire as a crowd assembled at Secunderabad railway station and torched train coaches, killing one protester in a clash with police.

Police said they used batons and tear gas to spread protesters in several states, including Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, and Rajasthan, after protesters took to the streets, blocked railway tracks and roads, and destroyed vehicles and government buildings.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government introduced the Agnipath or ‘Path of Fire’ program on Tuesday to bring in more people to the military on four-year contracts and lower the average age of India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces and cut down on burgeoning pension costs.

The Agnipath program is aimed at applicants between the ages of 17 and 21.

However, GNN News reported that potential recruits, military veterans, opposition figures, and some members of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) expressed reservations over the Agnipath initiative.

BBC News reported that the Agnipath program also received criticism from some military generals and defense experts who say it could weaken the army’s structure and have severe ramifications for national security.

Sheonan Singh, a retired Major General, said that launching the Agnipath program is a foolish move and could affect the efficiency of the security forces.

“Saving money is good, but it should not be done at the cost of defense forces. If you go to war with an experienced soldier, will a person with four years of training be able to replace him on his death? These things don’t work like this,” Singh said.

The Indian federal government announced late on Thursday night that candidates aged up to 23 years could apply under the scheme only for 2022.

Al Jazeera reported that Defense Minister Rajnath Singh announced earlier this week that the Indian armed forces will recruit about 46,000 people under the Agnipath program this year.

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