BHUBANESHWAR/LUCKNOW: Indian authorities have suspended internet services in several parts of the eastern state of Bihar in a bid to stop public gatherings and violent protests against a military recruitment plan, police officials said on Saturday .
One protester has been killed and more than a dozen injured in a series of protests in parts of the country against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new policy of hiring soldiers for short periods.
The Agnipath or ‘path of fire’ scheme aims to bring more people into the military on four-year contracts to lower the average age of the 1.38 million men in India’s armed forces and reduce retirement costs by booming, the government said. The protesters, mostly young men, say the plan will limit opportunities for permanent jobs in the defense forces, which guarantee fixed salaries, pensions and other benefits.
Many have taken to the streets in Bihar, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal to protest the plan.
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp have been blocked in 15 of Bihar’s 38 districts, said Sanjay Singh, a senior police official in the state, where protesters burned passenger trains and buses this week to express their outrage.
Certain gatherings banned: One dead in India unrest linked to the hiring of soldiers
In Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state, police have arrested at least 250 people in what are known as preventive arrests.
Some protesters accused the police of using excessive force.
Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh has called on young people to apply under the new scheme.
The Navy chief said Friday the protests were unexpected and likely the result of misinformation about the new system. “I hadn’t anticipated protests like this,” said Admiral R. Hari Kumar, Reuters TV partner, ANI. “This is the biggest transformation of human resource management that has ever taken place in the Indian Army.”