Protests over the Centre’s Agnipath recruitment scheme spread to West Bengal on Friday with youths in several districts taking out rallies and blocking trains, demanding immediate withdrawal of the scheme.
According to East Central Railway officials, they have cancelled nine trains and short-terminated nine others due to the ongoing agitation at various stations. They said there were possibilities of more trains getting cancelled due to the ongoing protest.
At Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas district, protesters blocked railway tracks for over an hour, disrupting train service in Sealdah in the Bongan section from 8 am to 10 am. Some youths also staged a protest outside the house of Union Minister of State for Ports and Shipping Shantanu Thakur in Thakurnagar.
In north Bengal’s Siliguri, t over 100 youths from other north Bengal districts took out a protest rally to denounce the Centre’s move. They set on fire tyres in the middle of the road prompting police to swing into action. The situation was, however, soon brought under control and no one was arrested, said police.
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Meanwhile, police thwarted an attempt by a section of protesters to enter New Jalpaiguri station near Siliguri and persuaded them to return.
In Purulia, protesters clashed with policemen when they tried to stop their agitation. Police said they had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the protesters who had blocked the Barakar Road.
Protests also erupted in Howrah where youths tried to block the Howrah Bridge that connects the district with Kolkata. Meanwhile, protests in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and other states led to the cancellation and shot termination of many passenger trains. The cancelled trains include 12303 Howrah-New Delhi Poorva Express, 12353 Howrah-Lalkuan Express, 18622 Ranchi-Patna Patliputra Express, 18182 Danapur-Tata Express, 22387 Howrah-Dhanbad Black Diamond Express, 13512 Asansol-Tata Express, 13032 Jaynagar-Howrah Express and 13409 Malda Town-Kiul Express. Two cancelled ECR trains are: 12335 Malda Town-Lokmanya Tilak (T) Express and 12273 Howrah-New Delhi Duronto Express.
Besides, several trains starting from Howrah Station were also cancelled and short terminated. Among the cancelled trains were Kolkata-Gorakhpur Express and Raxaul-Mithila Express. “Kamakhya-Delhi Brahmaputra Express (Journey Commencing on 16.06.2022) will be short terminated at Malda Town, and 03023 Howrah-Patna Examination Special will leave Howrah at 20:00 hours on Friday instead of the scheduled departure time at 13:50 hours,” said an Eastern Railway statement, attributing it to “the ongoing agitation at various stations over East Central Railway”. The cancellation and short-term termination of the trains have left hundreds of passengers stranded at Howrah station.Even in the South Eastern Railway zone, the effects of the protests were felt.
“Due to the agitation over different Railway Zones, several trains have been cancelled/regulated today (17.06.22). In South Eastern Railway jurisdiction, agitation was held at Tatanagar station from 8:05 hrs to 9:50 hrs,” reads an SER statement.
The following trains have been cancelled, short terminated and controlled due to agitation at different places: 18183 Tatanagar-Danapur Express and 18046 Hyderabad-Shalimar East Coast Express will remain cancelled, 13504 Hatia-Barddhaman MEMU Express will be short terminated at Kotshila, while 18019 Jhargram-Dhanbad MEMU Express will be short terminated at Tatanagar.
Apart from this, ten Up trains and eleven Down trains were cancelled over South Eastern Railway during the agitation.
The TMC, meanwhile, slammed the central government for bringing out the scheme, saying it would compromise national security. Party’s Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen said, “The Centre is offering contractual Indian Armed Force jobs to the youths and there is no clarity on their future after the four years of service ends. These youths will be trained for only four years and if they are indeed sent to protect the borders, then it will compromise the national security as they will not be trained properly. There are so many questions on the feasibility of this scheme.”
Reacting to the protests, BJP national vice-president Dilip Ghosh said, “There is a conspiracy to create unrest in the country over the new scheme. BJP-ruled states are being targeted. It is a historical scheme. Maybe the youths are not fully aware of its benefits, or some people are provoking them to protest against the Centre.”