Bharat Bandh over ‘Agnipath’: More than 500 trains cancelled across India

Protests against the Agnipath recruitment scheme for armed forces continued to disrupt the railways and road traffic movement for the sixth day, as several organisations called for ‘Bharat Bandh’ on Monday, June 20.

Indian Railways cancelled around 530 trains on Monday in the wake of major losses suffered from arson and damage in the violent protests over the last five days. It included both passenger trains and express mail from different divisions. Nearly 350 trains were cancelled in Bihar alone as a precautionary measure.

While 539 trains were affected, 529 trains were cancelled, including 181 mail/express trains and 348 passengers trains, the Railways said in a statement. The Railways also partially cancelled four mail/express trains.

Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR) Monday cancelled at least 26 trains due to violent agitations against ‘Agnipath’ scheme of the Centre and damages wrecked by flood at several locations in Assam, an NFR official said.

A number of trains have also been short terminated, short originated, diverted or rescheduled, he added.

Besides those cancelled on Monday, while another five have been cancelled for Tuesday, NFR chief public relations officer Sabyasachi De said.

He said north-bound trains from Guwahati were mostly cancelled or changes were made in their schedules due to the violent agitation against ‘Agnipath’ in Bihar which lead to damage to raileway properties, including burning of railway coaches.

Several roads in parts of Delhi-NCR saw long queues of vehicles in peak traffic hours on Monday morning. Hundreds of commuters remained stuck for hours near the Delhi-Gurgaon border and the Delhi-Noida link road as Delhi Police installed barricades at various checkpoints.

States including West Bengal, Jharkhand, UP, and Bihar have also tightened security, considering the widespread violence that happened last week. Section 144 was imposed in Gautam Buddha Nagar, UP, over possible disturbance to the peace and order in the area. Noida police said strict action would be taken against those involved in such incidents.

Protestors blocked the Lal Batti Chowk in Haryana’s Fatehabad, while several others staged a protest on roads in Rohtak district. Security forces have also been deployed at several locations in Kerala, Telangana, and Rajasthan to prevent violent incidents.

The Jharkhand government closed all the schools for the day, while some schools and colleges even postponed the exams scheduled on Monday. The district administration of Bihar’s Muzaffarpur has also announced the closure of schools. The Police have imposed section 144 in Rajasthan’s Jaipur city from 6 pm on Sunday till midnight of August 18.

The issue of platform tickets at all railway stations in the Chennai division of Southern Railway has been restricted until further orders, said the public relations officer of Railway’s Chennai Division.

Congress leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, Chhattisgarh CM Bhupesh Baghel, Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot, and others, staged a sit-in at Delhi’s Jantar Mantar protesting against Agnipath scheme, ED probe against Rahul Gandhi, and an alleged attack on an MP.

The protestors are demanding the rollback of the new four-year defence recruitment programme and the continuation of the existing system, which they say provides job security, better salaries, and opportunities for promotions. The protestors have alleged that the Agnipath scheme includes a compulsory retirement post the four-year term for the majority of the aspirants. Many are also concerned about the gratuity and pension benefits.

However, the government is firm on implementing the short-term recruitment scheme for the Armed forces. PM Narendra Modi said on Sunday, “It is the misfortune of our country that many schemes, launched for a good purpose, get entangled in partisan politics.” The three military services on Sunday released a broad schedule of enrolment under the Agnipath scheme and warned that those who indulged in violence and arson would not be inducted.

(With inputs from PTI)

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