Calm prevails in Punjab even as neighbouring states see violence over Agnipath – The Indian Express

Amid arson and protests in several states across the country over Agnipath recruitment scheme, Punjab has remained calm with the youth of the state staying away from any kind of violence in the state.
A protest march was organised by Army aspirants in Talwara in Hoshiarpur district this evening. These youth had cleared their physical examinations and were waiting to appear in written exams under the old recruitment scheme. Apart from this symbolic protest, no reports of demonstrations or damage to government or public property came from any other part of the state for the second successive day after the announcement of Agnipath scheme.
Politicians and retired Army personnel said that craze for settling abroad, particularly in Canada, and desire for government jobs within Punjab appears to have overtaken other avenues such as military service for the youth of the state.
Even as the neighbouring states of Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh have seen demonstrations against the new recruitment scheme leading to internet shut down in three districts of Haryana, Punjab has been calm. Along with Rajasthan, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh, Punjab also sends a large number of youth to the Army every year.
However, the disinterest shown by the youth in reacting to the new recruitment scheme has not come as a surprise to many in the state. For several years now the focus of the Punjabi youth, particularly from the Sikh community, has been to immigrate to Canada, Australia or New Zealand. “Class 12 karan to baad pehla kamm hunda IELTS clear karna te bahar chale jaana ya pher koi bahar di kudi labh laeni (The first thing they do after passing Class 12 is to either clear IELTS for studying abroad or finding a girl settled abroad to marry and settle down),” says Havildar Premjit Singh Brar, a former artillery man settled in Kotkapura.
Brar, who is also the district president of an ex-servicemen union, said that the youth are dejected with the Agnipath scheme and even those who wanted to join the Army would now prefer not to. “Chaar saal layi jaa ke pher ke karna? Chaprasi laggna? Kisse ne nayi jaana hun (What will they do after four years of service? Do a job of a peon? Nobody will join now),” he said.
It is the same story in another corner of Punjab, Gurdaspur, which has traditionally been sending large numbers of soldiers into the Army. When asked the reason for the silence of the youth over change in terms of recruitment, MLA from Dera Baba Nanak and former deputy CM Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa said the lure of Canada is stronger.
“The other day I visited a village and asked a youth about how the nearby college was doing. He told me that hardly anyone was enrolling after finishing Class 12 as everyone wanted to go abroad to Canada to do a two-year diploma and then apply for Permanent Residence in that country. If this trend continues along with the intention to change single class regiments to all India class then what will become of our Sikh and Sikh LI Regiments” Randhawa said.
According to former AAP MLA Kanwar Sandhu the sons of farmers with even small holdings of up to a couple of acres want to move to Canada. “Their aspirations are either to become an officer in the Army, or join a state government job or to go abroad. It costs just Rs 17 lakh to do a two-year diploma in any college in Canada and they are able to rustle up that amount,’ he said. He added that it is only the Ramdasia and Mazhabi Sikhs who are still keen to join the Army as compared to the Jat Sikhs.
The lack of protests from the youth of Punjab notwithstanding, the old soldiers of the border state are gearing up to hold their own protest and keep the flag of soldiering up. Various ex-servicemen unions are gathering in Bathinda on June 19 where they intend to raise their voice at the terms and conditions of Agnipath and demand a rollback to the previous recruitment scheme.
“We will still try to ensure that our youth are not disheartened. We have a proud tradition of soldiering going back hundreds of years. We will not let that vanish. Saab ji tussi kade aa ke vekho kiddan meri all Sikh Artillery Regiment gola fire kardi aa Bole So Nihal da jaikara chhad ke (Sir you should sometime come and see how my all Sikh Artillery Regiment fires a round by shouting the Jaikara of Bole So Nihal),” said Brar (70).
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Man Aman Singh ChhinaMan Aman reports on defence and national security affairs. He also wri… read more

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