Patna: Angry job aspirants, who have hit the streets in Bihar to protest against the Centre’s newly introduced ‘Agnipath’ scheme, said their dreams of joining the armed forces have been shattered with the announcement of the short-term contractual recruitment program and urged the government to realize why job seekers are frustrated with it. The Centre must understand the pain that the unemployed youths of the country are going through, said Vikas Ranjan, one of the hundreds of job aspirants who have been demonstrating against the scheme.
Ranjan, a graduate of Patna College, also alleged that the short-term contractual employment program is ”nothing but a design to destroy permanent jobs in the armed forces”.
”When Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks about ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India), will this Agnipath help army job aspirants to become self-reliant? Protests are taking place not only in Bihar but almost in all states of the country,” Ranjan, who has been preparing for the competitive exams for the last seven months, told PTI.
The government had on June 14 unveiled the ”transformative” scheme –‘ Agnipath’– for the recruitment of soldiers in the Army, Navy, and the Air Force largely on a four-year contractual basis, in a major overhaul of the decades-old selection process to bring in fitter and younger troops to deal with future security challenges facing the nation.
It also said the program would allow ”patriotic and motivated” youths to serve in the armed forces for four years.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had on Tuesday said this scheme has been brought to strengthen the security of the country.
”It is a transformative scheme,” he said, adding that it will enhance the combat potential of the armed forces with a younger profile and technologically adept soldiers.
However, Ranjan is not alone in the protests of job aspirants.
Another Army job seeker, Abhisekh Singh, who is a graduate of Veer Kunwar Singh University in Ara and has been preparing for competitive exams for the last two years, said the NDA may win elections, but ”fails to earn the trust of youths” who are striving for jobs.
”This government at the Centre has lost the trust of youths who have been demanding jobs. Our dreams have shattered with the announcement of the Agnipath scheme,” he said.
Another protestor Harshit Bhardwaj, who is pursuing post-graduation at Patna University, alleged that the short-term contractual recruitment scheme has been introduced ”without application of mind”. ”How can an elected government recruit people on a contract basis for the security of the country. They (government) are simply compromising with the safety and security of the country.” Violence and arson marked the fourth consecutive day of protests against Agnipath on Saturday when a state-wide bandh was also called by job aspirants to press the demand for the rollback of the new system of recruitment in the armed forces.
Police acted tough, arresting altogether 250 people across the state on June 18 and lodging 25 FIRs, according to a statement issued by the force here.
While commenting on the ongoing protests, city-based A N Sinha Institute of Social Studies’ assistant professor Vidyarthi Vikas said it is difficult to understand the objective of the government behind such schemes at a time when the ”unemployment rate has grown significantly”.
”I feel that the total number of unemployed youths (including educated) in the country is around 21 crore and in Bihar, the number is around 1.5-2 crore. The per capita income of the people of Bihar is even less than half of the average national per capita income. When they (students) are asking for jobs, you are offering them a retirement plan. This scheme must be withdrawn immediately,” he said.
Under the scheme, youngsters between 17.5 and 23 years of age will be recruited for four years, following which 75 percent of them will have to take compulsory retirement sans pension while the remainder will continue serving. The selection will be made based on their performance.
Vidyarthi, the economist, asserted that the central government must accept the reality of the ”growing unemployment” in the country.
”An ignorance from the government will not work. It will not be appropriate to say that such protests normally originate from Bihar. Unemployment is everywhere in the country and it’s growing day by day,” he said.
The unemployment rate in the country grew to 7.12 percent in May, according to the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy (CMIE).
It was higher at 8.21 percent in urban areas as compared to 6.62 in rural in May, as per the data.
The unemployment rate is the highest in Haryana at 24.6 percent, followed by Rajasthan at 22.2 percent, Jammu and Kashmir at 18.3 percent, Tripura at 17.4 percent, Delhi at 13.6 percent, Goa at 13.4 percent, and Bihar at 13.3 percent, the data showed.
Echoing Vidyarthi, Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University’s sociology department former head Umesh Kumar told PTI that ”The overall unemployment is worrisome, and this has a potential for social conflicts. Job opportunities have been hit by a slow pace of economic recovery amid rising prices in the country. There is an impression about the return to normalcy that we had in pre-Covid days, but there is no denial of the fact that unemployment is growing like anything in the country.” This unemployment crisis is ”causing frustration among youths in Bihar and other parts of the country”, he said.
”Since there are no major industries in Bihar, young men are eyeing government jobs…it guarantees the security and decent pay. The income of the people of Bihar is still low in the country,” Kumar said.
However, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar had on June 8 said the business atmosphere in Bihar has improved significantly in the last few years and the state is receiving a good response from industrialists.
”The Bihar government will ensure that the state becomes the top destination for investors in the coming years. We are working on various sectors, which can attract investors in a big way,” he had said at an Investors Meet recently.