#WhatTheFAQ: All about today’s Bharat Bandh and the latest updates on the Agnipath scheme

Why has Bharat Bandh been called today? And what is the latest on the controversial Agnipath scheme? Here is everything you need to know
Groups have called for a Bharat Bandh on June 20 | Pic: EdexLive
Groups have called for a Bharat Bandh on June 20 | Pic: EdexLive

Several groups across the country have called for a nationwide bandh today, June 20, against the centre’s new Agnipath scheme. Protests against the scheme that allows youth aged between 17-and-a-half and 23 to be recruited into the Army, Navy and Air Force on a four-year short-term contractual basis, turned violent across the country. Aspirants claim that they are unhappy with the length of the service and are uncertain about their future after being released from the services. However, the Deparment of Military Affairs clarified that the scheme will be implemented and there is no question of a rollback.

While protest groups have called for a bandh today, let’s find out more about it.

What services will be affected during the bandh?
Owing to the bandh and the prevailing law and order situation in the country, the Indian Railways has announced that they had to cancel over 700 trains today to prevent any threat to railway property. It has been reported that Senior Railway Protection Forces (RPF) have ordered all units to deal strictly with rioters. Additionally, police have been asked to collect digital evidence through mobile phones, CCTVs and so on.

How will the bandh affect daily life in each state?
Each state has been put on high alert and has ramped up security.

-      Faridabad, Haryana: Faridabad police have tightened security and urged people to not listen to rumours. Police officials have informed that videography will be done to keep an eye on “activities of anti-social elements” during the bandh.

-        Jharkhand: All schools in the state will remain closed today as a precautionary measure, according to state education officials. New dates for the Jharkhand Academic Council (JAC) exams for Class XI that were meant to be conducted today will be announced soon.

-        Noida, Uttar Pradesh: The Gautam Buddh Nagar police reiterated that the CrPC Section 144 has already been imposed in the district and requested citizens to not engage in activities that will disrupt law and order.

-        Punjab: State police have been asked to be on high alert and to increase security around all big military coaching institutes of the state.

-        Delhi: The Delhi Traffic Police has issued a traffic advisory as the movement of buses will be restricted in certain areas.

-        Kerala: State police have warned that they would arrest anyone engaging in violence or destruction of public property.

Other states are yet to announce developments regarding the bandh.

What are some of the latest updates on the scheme?
The Department of Military Affairs has announced that all candidates will have to submit a written pledge that they did not indulge in any arson/violence. Police verification will be done to ensure the same. “Indian Army's foundation in discipline. No space for arson, vandalism… Police verification is 100%, no one can join without that,” said Lt General Anil Puri, Addit'l Secy, Dept of Military Affairs. 

Additionally, the Navy will recruit women sailors for the first time through the Agnipath scheme this year. The exact number of women among the 3,000 naval Agniveers is still yet to be finalised, said chief of personnel Vice Admiral Dinesh K Tripathi.

Who has come out in support of the scheme?
In the backdrop of protests, Lt Gen Anil Puri also said that this was a reform that was long pending.

In fact, the Mahindra Group announced that they will hire young people who are trained under the scheme. Anand Mahindra on Twitter said that there is a large potential for employment of Agniveers in the corporate sector.

Actress Kangana Ranaut has also come out in support of the scheme, adding that she appreciates it. She said that it is needed to “save youth getting destroyed in drugs and PUBG”.

What have the consequences of the protests been so far?
After protests turned violent in Secunderabad, Telangana on Friday, June 17, one person was killed in the firing and several others were injured. 

It has also been reported that five train coaches were burnt and 30 AC and 47 non-AC coaches were damaged. The estimated cost of damages is Rs 3.29 crores. The situation followed suit in other states as well. Police in Bihar arrested 16 protesters for vandalism at the railway station and booked 650 others on Thursday, June 16. 

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