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Thousands of protesters clashed with police across India over the weekend to protest a new military recruitment plan which the government said would reduce costs and modernize the army, Reuters reported.
The unrest resulted in the death of at least one person and more than a dozen injured. Authorities said that demonstrators set trains ablaze and attacked the homes of government leaders across the country.
The violence began after the Indian government introduced a scheme last week called “Agnipath,” (Path of Fire). Under the plan, the military will recruit 46,000 personnel under the age of 21 annually but will not be obligated to retain them after they finish their four-year contract, according to the Washington Post.
Officials said the plan would induct recruits during their physical peak and help reduce costs for India’s 1.38 million-strong armed forces because, as analysts said, the scheme would reduce pension costs: Even though India’s military budget has stayed relatively steady, more than a quarter of revenues are now spent on pensions, with expenditures growing year after year.
The government said the changes would allow India to modernize its military and compete against neighboring China.
But opponents worry the scheme limits opportunities for permanent jobs in the defense forces. Meanwhile, future recruits posited that joining the military is an important status symbol in rural India, adding that the four-year program could jeopardize their future.
Following the upheaval, the government announced a series of concessions, including retaining 25 percent of troops after four years of duty, with the remainder given preference for alternative occupations, such as with the state police.