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Railways Suffered Loss of Over Rs 250 Crore During Agnipath Protests, Says Government

Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that 2,132 trains were cancelled between June 15 and June 23 due to the Agnipath protests across the country.
A policeman stands near a train-coach set ablaze by a mob at the Secunderabad Railway Station in protest against the Central government's Agnipath scheme in Hyderabad, June 17, 2022. Photo: PTI

New Delhi: The Indian Railways suffered a loss of Rs 259.44 crore due to damage and destruction of its assets during agitations against the Union government’s Agnipath scheme, Union railway minister Ashwini Vaishnaw told the Rajya Sabha during the ongoing Monsoon session of parliament on Friday, July 22.

In a written reply, he also informed that 2,132 trains were cancelled between June 15 and June 23 due to the Agnipath protests across the country.

He also said that separate data regarding amount of refund granted to passengers due to disruption of rail services due to agitations like the Agnipath scheme is not maintained.

“However, during the period 14.06.2022 to 30.06.2022, a total refund of approximately Rs 102.96 crore was granted on account of cancellation of trains,” he said.

He further said that all the affected train services cancelled on account of the Agnipath scheme have been restored.

A large number of youngsters protested across the country after the Union government announced the new military recruitment scheme on 14 June. Some of these protests turned violent as well.

The worst-hit East Central Railways – covering Bihar, Jharkhand and parts of Uttar Pradesh – witnessed widespread protests.

Also read: Agnipath and the Department of Military Affairs: Time to Rethink the Path We Are Taking

The Agnipath scheme turned the spotlight on India’s existing unemployment crisis. Protesters opined that their future is insecure under the scheme. After completion of the four-year tenure, the scheme provides for retaining only 25% of the recruits for regular service.

Critics told Bloomberg that the new military recruitment scheme would be similar to hiring for the gig economy and won’t lead to high-quality jobs.

Even senior defence and security officials have cautioned against the likelihood of large numbers of youthful armed forces personnel facing unemployment after they are discharged from the armed forces four years later.

An article in The Wire, citing experts, said, “Thousands of such weapon, combat and technically trained servicemen, who are now aged around 21 years and who would be released back into society six or seven years hence, could be in a position to exploit their soldierly skills adversely, by either spawning or bolstering armed gangs. Worse, they could be establishing ‘caste armies’ to challenge the state.”

Many opposition leaders as well as leaders from within the Bharatiya Janata Party have raised objection to the scheme.

The Agnipath recruitment scheme was at a standstill for over two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Under the scheme, the Army is likely to recruit around 40,000 soldiers, the Navy is expected to induct around 3,000 sailors and the IAF is set to recruit 3,000 airmen this year.

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