In southern India, a man has died in violent protests against the army’s new recruitment policy. Since yesterday, this has been massively argued against in various federal states. This is the first known fatality.
The incident was in the city of Secunderabad in the state of Telangana. Hundreds of protesters vandalized a train station and threw stones at police officers. In the shots that officers then fired, the dead would have fallen. At least fifteen people were also injured.
The military recruitment rules that the protesters are angry about were announced this week by Prime Minister Modi’s government. From now on, all new recruits are given a contract for four years, after which only 25 percent are allowed to remain in the army, and the rest are dismissed. Previously, most young servicemen were secured a position for at least seventeen years.
Youth unemployment is high in India and many young people are hoping for a job in defence. In addition to a good salary, the military also provides housing and a good pension. Some Indians train for years in hopes of being hired into the military.
In states such as Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, thousands of protesters have also been on their feet since yesterday. They destroy government buildings, set fire to buses and trains, and block train tracks and highways.
Police are trying to get the protests under control. Armed officers chase away crowds and arrest protesters. In several districts, the government has shut down the internet.
With the new recruitment policy, the Indian defense can save a lot of money. The military has now spent more than half of its budget on salaries and pensions for its nearly 1.5 million employees. The government wants to use the cut money to modernize the army.
According to army chief Manoj Pande, the new system is beneficial to everyone. According to him, the military will be able to hire more young people and invest more in innovation. “As soon as the youth learn more about the policy, they will see that it benefits everyone,” says Pande.
However, many connoisseurs are critical of the new policy, which was introduced without any debate in the Indian Parliament. “It is good to save money, “says former general Sheonan Singh,” but not at the expense of good armed forces. A soldier with only four years of training will never be as good as an experienced military man.”