In short, today’s Bharat Bandh can be said to have flopped because the markets hardly closed anywhere in the country, except a few parts in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, shut down, responding to the call. It was business as usual as markets in Delhi remained open today despite the call for Bharat Bandh in protest against the Agnipath military recruitment scheme, said the capital city’s traders’ associations. The impact of the bandh, called by some organisations, was not seen in different commercial markets here, including Lajpat Nagar, Sarojini Nagar, Palika Bazar and Khan Market, they said. However, the impact of the opposition’s call for a nationwide general strike was seen in the Indian Railways, which cancelled more than 500 trips.
Hundreds of trains have been affected ever since protests were first reported on Wednesday, a day after the scheme was unveiled. Many trains have been torched and vandalised as agitations raged. Scenes were no different in Andhra Pradesh’s Vijayawada city where tight security was seen at the railway station. Vijayawada.
But in a development unrelated to Agnipath, Youth Congress workers today stopped a train at the Shivaji Bridge railway station near Connaught Place to protest against the questioning of Rahul Gandhi by the Enforcement Directorate. While they pushed for a rollback of the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme too, no market was closed as a result. The track was cleared by police and security personnel and train movement resumed after about half an hour, sources said.
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Amid the call for Bharat Bandh, security arrangements strengthened at Nizamuddin railway station to ensure the safety of people and railway property. Train movements from the said station were not disrupted. Passengers are comfortably departing and arriving, said AP Joshiya, assistant security commissioner, RPF.
Meanwhile, heavy traffic at Noida-Delhi Link Road at the Chilla border due to security checks by UP Police in wake of Bharat Bandh against the Agnipath scheme. ADCP Noida, Ranvijay Singh says, “We’re ensuring that no protester can pass through here, we’re coordinating with Delhi Police.”
Many other states stepped up security due to the call for Bharat Bandh by some groups against Agnipath.
More than 50 people, including three INC MLAs, were held as demonstrations intensified against the recruitment plan in the armed forces, revealed last week by the government, along the Singhu border between the national capital and Haryana. Rail traffic remains affected too.
The Bihar government increased security at party offices considered vulnerable. As of now, internet services remain shut in 20 districts. In Jharkhand, all schools remained closed today amid protests against Agnipath.
In Haryana, demonstrations continued in Fatehabad and the Rohtak district, news agency PTI reported, adding that was a heavy deployment of police at railway stations, including those in Ambala, Rewari and Sonipat in Haryana and Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Amritsar in Punjab.
In Punjab, after violence was reported at the Ludhiana railway station two days ago, huge police forces were seen on the roads. “Heavy security has been deployed at the Jalandhar railway station amid the Bharat Bandh called by some organisations against the Agnipath scheme. We’ve sufficient force, and we have deputed 80 per cent of our own city force. Besides, we also have deployed the Rapid Action Force and the Punjab Armed Police,” police officer Jagmohan Singh said.
Uttar Pradesh is closely monitoring the situation. “Platforms, tracks and entries are being monitored. We’re coordinating with the railways’ police force and intelligence to see that no miscreant does anything and the passengers don’t face any problems. Timely announcements are being made, and there is a help desk for the public. They can get all the information at the help desk,” RPF IG Tarique Ahmad told ANI in UP’s Gorakhpur.
More than 1,000 people have been arrested over the violent demonstrations since 15 June. Most of these arrests have been from Bihar.
The Bharat Bandh call evoked no response in Visakhapatnam city and in the district today. APSRTC buses and trains ran as usual and on schedule. There were no untoward incidents in the railway station or in any other place in the city. But the authorities concerned continued to maintain the deployment of security forces at the railway station and at all vital installations as a precautionary measure.
Schools and colleges functioned normally and shops and establishments were open since morning. The youth wings of communist parties such as SFI and AISF tried to take out a rally from Maddilapalem, but the police who were present in considerable numbers did not allow that to happen. About eight members were arrested and taken to MVP Police Station, said CPI (M) urban president Ganga Rao.
Police and railway authorities remain on high alert in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in view of the Bharat bandh call. Security was tightened at all major railway stations, offices of the Central government and Army recruitments authorities in both the Telugu states to prevent any protest by the Army job aspirants.
Railway police were keeping a tight vigil at all the major railway stations in the wake of 17 June violence at Secunderabad railway station.
Additional forces were deployed around the stations to prevent any attempt to stage a protest. The security personnel were checking vehicles and tickets of passengers to ensure that the protestors did not enter the stations.
There was high security at Secunderabad, Nampally, Kachegua stations in Hyderabad, Kazipet, Jangaon, Vijayawada, Guntur, Visakhapatnam, Tirupati and other major stations.
Police have made it clear that there is no permission for Bharat bandh or protests. They have warned of stringent action against those participating in the protests. Vijayawada Police Commissioner Kanti Rana Tata, Eluru SP Rahul Dev Sharma and other police officials have warned students and youth that if they indulge in any illegal activity and if cases are booked against them, this would render them ineligible for government jobs in future. They have also been told that if cases are booked they will not be issued passports.
Security was tightened at various locations in the Howrah district of West Bengal amid Bharat Bandh called by some organisations on Monday to mark their protest against the Agnipath recruitment scheme announced by the Centre last week.
“Police force has been deployed at multiple locations. We are ready to tackle any kind of situation that may arise. We also urge the youth to not get involved in any untoward activity,” Anupam Singh, DCP North, Howrah said.
At a key press briefing, representatives of all the three defence services (army, navy and air force) warned violent demonstrators yesterday. “The foundation of the Indian armed forces is discipline. There is no space for arson. There is no problem if you show your anger and engage in talks. But there is no space for arson and vandalism,” Lt General Anil Puri, the additional secretary of the department of military affairs, said.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has announced reservations for the Agnipath recruits, Agniveers, after they retire from their four-year service. The recruitment scheme aims to bring down the average age of soldiers, airmen and sailors by targeting the 17-23 age group. The Agniveers will be enrolled for a service duration of four years including the training period. After four years, 25% of the recruits will be retained or re-enlisted in the regular cadre based on merit, willingness and medical fitness. The others have a host of career options in jobs and businesses offered by various ministries and also private sector companies.