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Bihar has seen violent protests against the Indian army’s new employment strategy.

In India, protests have arisen over a new reform proposal that would allow the armed services to hire soldiers for a set period of time. On Thursday, demonstrators in Bihar’s northern state torched tyres and stopped major highways, calling for the reforms to be reversed. Following conflicts with protestors, police used tear gas shells in several places.

The “Agnipath,” or Path of Fire, program, which was announced on Tuesday, is for people aged 17.5 to 21. Successful candidates will serve in the military for four years, with only 25% of them being kept after that.

India: Protest against Indian Army's hiring plan

The measure is intended to reduce the army’s spending on rising salaries and pensions, which account for more than half of its budget, and free up funds for modernization. According to the administration, this will “improve the armed forces’ youthful profile.” Potential recruiters, on the other hand, claim that the system offers nothing to provide jobs and possibilities.

On Wednesday, several of them chanted slogans like “give us employment or kill us.” Some military generals and defense experts have criticized the program, claiming that it might erode the army’s organization and have major implications for national security, especially since India has contentious borders with two of its neighbors, Pakistan and China.

India has one of the world’s largest military forces, which shares a strongly militarized border with Pakistan and has been locked in a tense standoff with China along its Himalayan border. It is also one of the country’s largest employers, with 1.4 million employees and millions of people applying each year. Every year, about 60,000 soldiers leave the army, and the army holds up to 100 “rallies” to replace them.

However, hiring has been halted for several years. Officials blame the pandemic, but analysts say the force was already stretched thin and trying to keep up with the times.

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