Rashmi Rekha Das

Protests against the Agnipath scheme recently floated by the Centre have intensified with many Army aspirants staging an agitation at Cantonment Square in Cuttack on Friday demanding withdrawal of the scheme. 

They protested in front of the Army Office and held up traffic at Ring Road disrupting traffic services much to the incontinence of locals. The situation was so tensed that police resorted to lathicharge to disperse the aspirants. 

According to sources, the protests began after the Centre launched the scheme on Tuesday, which proposes recruitment of Army aspirants on a contractual basis for four years followed by a compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits. As the Army aspirants across the nation intensified protests against the scheme, the Central government late Thursday announced a one-time relaxation of two years in age limit from 21 years to 23 years for the year 2022 as Army recruitment had remained stalled for the last two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Army aspirants from different districts took part in the protests in Cuttack seeking fulfilment of their demands.
A protester said, “We need immediate cancellation of ‘Tour of Duty’ (ToD). Besides, we demand the Centre to hold written examination for recruitment as soon as possible. For last one and half years, the Centre has not been doing anything noteworthy for our posting though we were selected and are awaiting next procedure of joining. We are not able to appear for other interviews because of it.”

Another aspirant said “We had appeared for physical tests held in March 2021 to get posted as jawans. We were supposed to give written test on May 30 which was not held. If ToD is implemented, a youth can serve Indian Army for three and half years because he has to undergo training for six months. After four years his future will be dark.  We wasted two years aspiring to join Indian Army. If ToD will be implemented we will be nowhere.”