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Explained: What is the Agnipath scheme? Why are aspirants protesting against it?

However, as per the new scheme, it includes just four-year tenure for most while Agniveers will not be eligible for pension benefits.

New Delhi: Following the government’s announcement about the Agnipath scheme for recruiting soldiers across the three services, protests emerged in several cities just after two days against the new defence recruitment path raising issues like job security and post-service benefits as their major concerns.

Why are job aspirants protesting?

Protestors are claiming job security and pension as the major issues of their protests. As per the previous system, troops joined for a 17-year period, which was possible for an extension for some personnel. Besides, it resulted in a lifelong pension.

However, as per the new scheme, it includes just four-year tenure for most while Agniveers will not be eligible for pension benefits.

Mohan Kumar, a protesting student from Bihar’s Chhapra, said “This Agnipath scheme is just a placebo being given to unemployed youth. Even parents would now think twice before sending their sons to the Army just for four years.”

“Just imagine getting retired just after four years. It is nothing but playing with their emotions in the name of giving them some skills before they retire. Students want the old system back,” said SK Jha who runs a coaching centre for competitive examinations in Bihar.

Another reason that is adding to the anger of the protesters is the two-year freeze on Army recruitment due to the pandemic. With recruitment under the Agnipath scheme will start in 90 days, several aspirants who turned overage during the last two years are now asking for relaxation in age criteria.

‘Bharti do, ya arthi do’ was one of the slogans that were raised in protest in Bihar on Wednesday.

Agnipath scheme protest

According to Jha, there used to be around 60,000 vacancies in the Army and other defence forces till two years ago.

 Jitender Bhadawar, a 23-year-old from Haryana’s Barwala who lost his chance to join the Army as he is now overage said to Indian Express, “They have changed all the rules….Earlier, boys would prepare for five years in advance to join the Army. Why will they now do so for only four years of service? Virodh aur gussa hai (There is opposition and anger to it) and youngsters are sharing messages on social media platforms for a boycott.”

Besides, the Agnipath scheme is an “all India, all class” recruitment system.

Anxieties have been raised on how the new recruits will be adjusted in the existing system under which most of the Army units are region, caste, or class-based.

Where are protests taking place?

On Wednesday, protests broke out in Bihar’s Muzaffarpur and Buxar. Within 24 hours, protests have spread to Jammu, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, and several other parts of Bihar.

In Haryana, protesters laid a virtual blockade on bus stands and roads, disturbing traffic on the Gurugram-Jaipur highway.

Agnipath scheme protest

Meanwhile, in Bihar, raging aspirants blocked railway tracks, damaged rail properties, and threw burning tyres on the road. On Thursday, protests were reported from Jahanabad, Buxar, Muzaffarabad, Bhojpur, Saran, Munger, Nawada, and Kaimur. Protesters also attacked the vehicle of Warsaliganj BJP MLA Aruna Devi, who managed to escape.

Also, a 1,000-strong mob destroyed property at the Gwalior railway station forcing the police to resort to lathicharge.

What is the Agnipath scheme?          

The Agnipath scheme is the government’s defence recruitment reform under which 45,000 to 50,000 soldiers will be recruited annually with most leaving the service after just four years.

Out of the total recruits, only 25% will be allowed to continue for another 15 years under permanent commission.


The new system applies only to personnel below officer ranks (those who do not join the forces as commissioned officers). This scheme is not optional as all personnel who are below officer rank will be hired only through this route from now on. The aspirants who are between the age group of 17.5 years and 21 years will be able to apply.