DEHRADUN: As protests against the defence recruitment scheme ‘Agnipath’ broke out in several parts of Uttarakhand, DGP Ashok Kumar on Friday appealed to the youth not to indulge in violence even as the state government ordered an enquiry.
“I appeal to the youth of the state to maintain peace and not to indulge in any violence. I have spoken to the district police chiefs, and inspector generals of both divisions about maintaining law and order across the state,” said the DGP.
Anti-Agnipath protests, that are already raging in different parts of the country, engulfed this hill state as protesters clashed with policemen in Nainital, Pithoragarh, capital Dehradun, and Champawat.
The demonstrators raised slogans against the Central government, burned effigies of BJP leaders and demanded roll back of the scheme announced on June 14.
Notably, chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami won by-elections in Champawat earlier this month by record margins scoring 93% of the total votes cast.
On Thursday, CM Dhami announced that the ‘Agniveers’, as the recruits would be known, will be given preference in the state government jobs including police force.
The issue is politically vital given the number of people from Uttarakhand working in armed forces and the influence they wield. At present, more than one lakh people are working in armed forces. The vote share of such families can be anywhere between 3-5 lakh.
One of the main reasons that the Bhartiya Janata Party retained power in the state earlier this year was its focus on the armed forces centric politics, experts said.
BJP leaders miss no chance to highlight the decisions of the Modi government in favor of servicemen, including implementation of ‘One Rank One Pension’ scheme.
Ajay Bhatt, minister of state for defence and Lok Sabha MP from Nainital, said, “The youth protesting against the scheme must understand that this is for their benefit only. Our government has been working towards welfare of our soldiers. What is to be gained by such mindless violence? This is not the conduct of those aspiring to join the Army.”
Opposition Congress called it a destructive scheme, saying that the four-year service provision amounts to “cheating” with the youth of Uttarakhand and the country.
“The BJP government has lost all sense now. An institution like Indian Army will be destroyed by this step. The youth who live for the dream of joining the Indian Army all their lives have been left heartbroken. This is outright cheating and cruel on the part of the government with the youth of this country,” said Karan Mahra, state Congress president.