Agnipath protests: With cancellation of trains, air fares go through roof

The Railways on Monday said it cancelled 587 trains, while 483 trains were cancelled on Sunday and 369 trains a day earlier as agitators set some coaches of trains on fire.Amid countrywide protests, PM Modi said that the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme will help in nation-building later. 

Livemint
Updated21 Jun 2022
The Railways on Monday said it cancelled 587 trains, while 483 trains were cancelled on Sunday and 369 trains a day earlier as agitators set some coaches of trains on fire.
The Railways on Monday said it cancelled 587 trains, while 483 trains were cancelled on Sunday and 369 trains a day earlier as agitators set some coaches of trains on fire.

Amid the ongoing Agnipath scheme protest, the Railways have been cancelling number of trains over the last few days leaving hundreds of passengers in the lurch with many unable to avail flights due to high air fares.

The Railways on Monday said it cancelled 587 trains, while 483 trains were cancelled on Sunday and 369 trains a day earlier as agitators set some coaches of trains on fire.

Also Read: Agnipath scheme: Army, Navy, Air Force announce application dates. All you need to know

As per the PTI report, the worst affected zone remained the Eastern Central Railway which is headquartered at Bihar’s Hajipur and comprises Sonpur, Samastipur, Danapur, Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, and Dhanbad divisions.

Also Read: Agnipath live updates

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government last week unveiled the plan called Agnipath, or "path of fire", aimed at bringing more people into the military on short, four-year contracts to lower the average age of India's 1.38 million-strong armed forces. Analysts say the scheme will also help cut burgeoning pension costs.

As per the cursory search on online travel services firms like MakeMyTrip and Yatra.com showed that the air fares on the routes were in the "high" category. 

The air fare for an Air India flight from New Delhi to Patna for Tuesday was 22,265, while the cheapest flight on the route was 8,332. Similarly, a flight from New Delhi to Kolkata was available for 10,055 while the cheapest flight on the route was 8,112.

An Air India flight from New Delhi to Guwahati was available at 29,730 while the cheapest one was for 8,552.

Many of those who have been affected by the protests are students travelling to appear for several competitive exams scheduled during the week. A student, Harsh Kumar, wrote on Twitter saying, "When so many trains are getting cancelled then how will students from remote villages access their exam centres allotted in far away cities? Kindly look into the matter." He was referring to the engineering entrance exam -- JEE Mains -- which is scheduled to be held between June 23 and June 29.

Another Twitter user was worried about appearing for law entrance exam CLAT. "CLAT 2022 is scheduled on June 19. But due to the protest over Agnipath, people are facing problem to reach the test centres. Roads are jammed and innumerous trains are cancelled," she tweeted on June 18.

At Patna railway station, screens with announcements of cancellations ran through the day. In some cases, passengers from areas where internet had been suspended, only came to know of cancellations after they reached the station.

Government school teacher Rahul Upadhyay, 30, is sure to miss the first day of school in Darbhanga, Bihar, post summer vacations, as he is stuck in Uttar Pradesh’s Ghaziabad where he had come for the holidays.

"The school reopens on Tuesday and I am still stuck here. I will try my best to reach Patna as soon as possible. The flight ticket fares are too high for me," he said.

Protests have erupted in several states since last Wednesday against the Agnipath scheme to recruit soldiers in the Army, the Navy and the Air Force for a four-year period, followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity and pension benefits.

Angry mobs have targeted trains and railway properties in their protests against the scheme. Coaches of at least three running trains in the ECR and one empty rake in Kulharia (also in the ECR) were damaged by violent protesters. One coach of a stationary train was also damaged in the washing line at Uttar Pradesh's Ballia.

The protesters say it will deprive them of the opportunity of a permanent job in the military, and with it a guaranteed pension, other allowances and social status. 

Amid countrywide protests, PM Modi on 20 June said that the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme will help in nation-building later. “Reforms may be unpleasant temporarily but beneficial over time," the PM said at an event in Bengaluru.

He further said the path of reforms can alone take us towards new targets and new resolve.

Apart from him, the Agnipath scheme saw several business tycoons backing the scheme. Mahindra Group chairman Anand Mahindra, N Chandrasekaran, the Tata Sons Chairman, and Biocon chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw among others have endorsed the scheme. 

Meanwhile, the prime minister is set to meet the chiefs of three armed forces-The Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force amid the Agnipath scheme row. The three service chiefs are likely to apprise PM Modi about the various aspects of the implementation of the scheme

(With PTI inputs)

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