Changes in the military recruitment system determined protests in India

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Protests widened against a new military recruitment system in India. Army aspirants disrupted rail and road traffic in several parts of Bihar for the second consecutive day. Phone internet and SMS services have been suspended for 24 hours in Haryana’s Palwal district following stone-pelting and violence by Army aspirants. Due to demonstrations and vandalism at several railway stations, 22 trains from Bihar had to be cancelled and five had to stop. n Jehanabad, students pelted stones injuring several people including cops . In Nawada, groups of young men burnt tyres at a public crossing and raised slogans demanding the rollback of the tour of duty scheme. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government this week announced an overhaul of recruitment for India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces, looking to bring down the average age of personnel and reduce pension expenditure.

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Under the new system, men and women between the ages of 17 and a half and 21 will be brought into the armed forces, many of them for a maximum four-year tenure. The new recruitment plan aims to cut down the government’s massive salary and pension bills and free up funds for arms procurement. A total of 46,000 soldiers will be recruited this year on four-year contracts with a quarter expected to be kept on at the end of that term, the government said. During this period, they will be paid a monthly salary between Rs 30,000-40,000 plus allowances. They will also be entitled to medical and insurance benefits. After four years, only 25 per cent of these soldiers will be retained and they will go on to serve for a full 15 years in non-officer ranks.Military officials said the new system, called Agnipath, meaning “path of fire” in Hindi, would help bring down the average age of the armed forces. “A more youthful profile will help train troops more easily in newer technologies, and their health and fitness levels will be much better,” Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declared.The country has one of the world’s largest armed forces.