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Agnipath Protests: Amid Train Cancellations, Air Fares Becomes Costlier

The Railways cancelled 587 trains on Monday, after cancelling 483 trains on Sunday and 369 trains the day before after agitators set some train coaches on fire. In the midst of nationwide protests, Prime Minister Modi stated that the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme will aid in nation-building in the future.

Laavanya Arya
The most expensive flight from New Delhi to Guwahati was 29,730, while the cheapest was 8,552.
The most expensive flight from New Delhi to Guwahati was 29,730, while the cheapest was 8,552.

In the midst of the ongoing Agnipath scheme protest, the railways have cancelled a number of trains in the past few days, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded and many unable to book flights due to high airfares. The Railways cancelled 587 trains on Monday, after cancelling 483 trains on Sunday and 369 trains the day before after agitators set some train coaches on fire.

According to the PTI report, the worst affected zone was the Eastern Central Railway, which is headquartered in Bihar's Hajipur and includes the divisions of Sonpur, Samastipur, Danapur, Pt. Deen Dayal Upadhyaya, and Dhanbad.

Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government unveiled the Agnipath, or "path of fire," plan, which aims to bring more people into the military on short, four-year contracts in order to reduce the average age of India's 1.38 million-strong armed forces. According to analysts, the scheme will also help to reduce rising pension costs.

According to a cursory search on online travel service providers such as MakeMyTrip and Yatra.com, the air fares on the routes were in the "high" category.

On Tuesday, an Air India flight from New Delhi to Patna cost $22,265, while the cheapest flight on the route cost $8,332. Similarly, a flight from New Delhi to Kolkata cost $10,055, with the cheapest flight on the route costing $8,112.

The most expensive flight from New Delhi to Guwahati was 29,730, while the cheapest was 8,552.

Many of those impacted by the protests are students on their way to several competitive exams scheduled for the week. Harsh Kumar, a student, wrote on Twitter, "When so many trains are cancelled, how will students from remote villages get to their exam centres in distant cities? Please investigate the situation." He was referring to the JEE Mains engineering entrance exam, which will be held between June 23 and June 29.

Another Twitter user expressed concern about taking the CLAT law entrance exam. "CLAT 2022 is set to take place on June 19. However, due to the Agnipath protest, people are having difficulty getting to the testing centres. Roads are congested, and numerous trains have been cancelled "On June 18, she tweeted.

Throughout the day, screens at Patna railway station displayed cancellation announcements. In some cases, passengers from areas where internet service had been suspended learned of cancellations only after arriving at the station.

Rahul Upadhyay, 30, is sure to miss the first day of school in Darbhanga, Bihar, after summer vacations because he is stuck in Ghaziabad, Uttar Pradesh, where he had come for the holidays.

"I'm still stuck here until the school reopens on Tuesday. I'll do my best to get to Patna as soon as possible. The flight ticket prices are prohibitively expensive for me "he said.

Protests have erupted in several states since last Wednesday against the Agnipath scheme, which recruits soldiers for four years in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, followed by compulsory retirement for most without gratuity or pension benefits.

In their protests against the scheme, angry mobs have targeted trains and railway properties. Violent protesters damaged the coaches of at least three running trains on the ECR and one empty rake in Kulharia (also on the ECR). In Ballia, Uttar Pradesh, one coach of a stationary train was also damaged in the washing line.

Protesters claim that it will deprive them of the opportunity for a permanent job in the military, as well as a guaranteed pension, other benefits, and social standing.

He went on to say that the reform path alone can lead us to new goals and resolve. Apart from him, several business tycoons supported the Agnipath scheme.

Among those who have supported the scheme are Mahindra Group Chairman Anand Mahindra, Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran, and Biocon Chairperson Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw. Meanwhile, amid the Agnipath scheme controversy, the prime minister is scheduled to meet with the chiefs of three armed forces: the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force. The three service chiefs are expected to brief Prime Minister Modi on the various aspects of the scheme's implementation.

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