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MHA Said to Have Banned 35 WhatsApp Groups for Spreading Fake News on Agnipath Scheme

The Central government on Sunday banned 35 WhatsApp groups for allegedly spreading fake news on the Agnipath Scheme and the Agniveers, government sources said. The action was taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) amid reports that social media platforms such as WhatsApp were being used for mobilising protests in states like Bihar which grew more virulent on Friday, June 17, when a mob attacked Deputy Chief Minister Renu Devi’s house, besides causing damage to the railway property and disrupting the normal life in a number of districts in Bihar.

As per sources, the Centre has also issued a number 8799711259 for WhatsApp fact-checking.

On June 17, the Bihar government also suspended internet services in 12 of its districts till Sunday and said that the internet was being used to transmit objectionable content in order to spread rumours with an intent to incite the public and cause damage to life and property.

Bihar has been witnessing agitations since June 15, a day after the government came out with the new scheme for recruiting youngsters to the armed forces on a four-year contractual basis after which only 25 percent shall be “regularised” based on the performance assessment by seniors, while the rest will be discharged from service without pensionary benefits.

“In the three days (from June 15 to June 17), around 620 people have been arrested and as many as 130 First Information Reports (FIRs) have been registered in Bihar,” Sanjay Singh ADG, Law and Order, had said earlier on the protests against Agnipath recruitment scheme, adding that “140 people were arrested on Saturday”.

As per the East Central Railway, over 60 trains were cancelled till Saturday and two were terminated due to the prevailing law and order problems and threat perception to the railway property and passengers in Bihar.

Unveiling the ‘Agnipath’ scheme, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday said that it was a transformative initiative that would provide a youthful profile to the armed forces. “Under the Agnipath Scheme, Indian youngsters will be provided an opportunity to serve in armed forces as Agniveer,” Rajnath Singh had said.

The Agnipath scheme has been brought to strengthen India’s security. The ‘Agniveers’ will be given a good pay package and an exit retirement package after a service of four years. This move comes in a bid to slash the ballooning salary and pension bills, amid major concerns the move will adversely impact the professionalism, military ethos and fighting spirit of the over 14 lakh strong armed forces.

Notably, Agnipath is a pan India merit-based recruitment scheme for enrolling soldiers, airmen and sailors. The scheme provides an opportunity for the youth to serve in the regular cadre of the armed forces. All those recruited under the Agnipath Scheme will be called ‘Agniveers’.

Agniveers will be enrolled for a service duration of 4 years including the training period. After four years, only 25 percent of the Agniveers will be retained or re-enlisted in the regular cadre based on merit, willingness and medical fitness.

These 25 percent Agniveers will then serve for a full term of another 15 years. The first four years, served under a contract, are not likely to be taken into consideration for the fixation of the final pensionary benefits.

The other 75 percent ‘Agniveers’ will be demobilized, with an exit or “Seva Nidhi” package of Rs. 11-12 lakh, partly funded by their monthly contributions, as well as skill certificates and bank loans for help in their second careers.

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