India cancels train services as protests loom over military recruitment

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Authorities in India cancelled more than 500 train services on Monday because of calls for protests by young men angry with a military recruitment plan that they say will rob them of the opportunity of a career in the armed forces.

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.

But 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.

Leaders of the opposition Congress party met Indian President Ram Nath Kovind to seek withdrawal of the scheme.

“Given the situation on our borders, it is imperative that we have soldiers in our armed forces who are young, well-trained, motivated, happy, satisfied and assured of their future,” they said in a memorandum submitted to the president.

India shares often-tense borders with Pakistan and China.

But top defence officials said on Sunday the plan was aimed at modernising the forces and would not be withdrawn despite protests by many thousands of young men who have attacked and torched trains and clashed with police since last week.

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