Patna/Kolkata/Bhubaneswar/Ranchi: Protestors continued to target railway properties in Bihar and West Bengal on Saturday to vent their ire against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme disrupting train services in the eastern region for the fourth day in a row, while demonstrations were held on roads in Odisha and Jharkhand.
Job aspirants also did push-ups on a road in Bihar capital Patna and on railway tracks in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas, while one youth ran 60 kilometres in Odisha’s Nabarangpur as marks of their opposition to the ‘Agnipath’ short-term recruitment scheme.
In Bihar, protestors torched the Taregana railway station in Patna district and a GRP vehicle while several law enforcers were injured in stone-throwing in Jehanabad when a bandh was also called to press for the demand for rollback of the new scheme for recruitment in armed forces.
They also exchanged gunshots with GRP personnel, engaged in heavy stone-pelting and beat up journalists covering the clash.
In Danapur sub-division, bandh supporters vandalised an ambulance and the driver alleged that a patient and attendants inside were also beaten up by the mob.
The ECR headquarters in Hajipur said that in view of the prevailing situation, 32 trains have been cancelled.
The railways have suffered massive losses in Bihar during protests in the last three days. More than 60 train coaches, 10 engines and some stations have been torched by groups protesting against the introduction of the new recruitment system wherein 75 per cent of jawans will be retired after four years of service, with no pension benefits.
Bandh supporters had attacked a police outpost in Jehanabad district, leaving several police personnel injured.
A large police contingent was deployed in front of the state headquarters of the BJP, which has been at the receiving end of the protests, with many of its senior leaders having been physically attacked and its offices in at least three districts being set ablaze since Thursday.
In West Bengal, train services on the Sealdah-Barrackpore route in North 24 Parganas district were disrupted for around an hour as a group of anti-Agnipath agitators blocked railway tracks and did push-ups.
Around 20 protesters blocked both up and down lines at a level crossing from around 10 AM thus also affecting vehicular traffic, a spokesperson of the Eastern Railway said.
The demonstration affected railway services during office hours, and many commuters waiting at Barrackpore station reached the protest site and an altercation ensued with the agitators.
The police on Saturday afternoon clashed with agitating members of the All India Democratic Students Organisation and All India Democratic Youth Organisation when they tried to block roads near Kolkata’s Hazra area, a hundred metres from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s residence.
In Odisha, a job aspirant ran 60 km in Nabarangpur while a large number of agitators sat in dharna near the revenue divisional commissioner’s office in Berhampur in Ganjam district.
The agitators including many who cleared the physical tests held earlier, raised slogans at Berhampur demanding withdrawal of the ‘Agnipath’ scheme and demanded at least 15 years of service in the Armed Forces instead of four after selection.
East Coast Railways has cancelled or short terminated several trains passing through Odisha from Visakhapatnam in view of the protests.
In Jharkhand, demonstrations were held at Dhanbad and Morabadi in Ranchi while security was intensified in the state BJP headquarters with the deployment of RAF personnel, officials said.
The government announced the Agnipath scheme on Tuesday to recruit soldiers in the Army, Navy and the Air Force on a contract for four years without pension benefits. It said that the scheme will bring in fitter and younger troops to tackle future security challenges facing the nation.
However, job aspirants in the forces are not happy and they have been protesting for the last few days in several states across the country. PTI