Protests intensify in India over new military hiring policy
INDIA – Protesters in India’s eastern state of Bihar destroyed public property and ransacked offices in a railway station on Saturday to express outrage at a new military recruitment policy, demanding the government to reverse the decision, said the officials. Thousands of youth attacked the train coaches, burned tyres and clashed with the officials at the station in one of India’s poorest states. At least 12 protesters were arrested while four policemen were injured, said Sanjay Singh, a senior police official in Bihar overseeing law and order. He said around 2,000 to 2,500 people entered the Masaurhi railway station and attacked the forces. The Agnipath or “path of fire” system aims to bring more people into the military on four-year contracts to lower the average age of India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces and cut burgeoning pension costs, said the government. Protesters, mainly young men, said the plan will limit opportunities for permanent jobs with the defence forces, which guarantee fixed salaries, pensions and other benefits. Some retired military officials said the government’s money-saving plan risks eroding the honour of serving the nation and the safety of India. Reports of sporadic unrest in several parts of India prompted Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to hold meetings to review the policy of hiring soldiers for shorter tenures.