One person was killed in police firing in Secunderabad, the first casualty of protests against the Agnipath defence recruitment scheme that raged through several states for the third day on Friday with trains torched, public property vandalised and many thousands blocking tracks and highways.
At least 200 trains were affected, 35 cancelled and 13 short-terminated, railway officials said.
As angry crowds, some armed with brickbats and stones, fanned out across large parts of India, from Uttar Pradesh to Telangana and Bihar to Madhya Pradesh, Union Home Minister Amit Shah and Army chief Gen Manoj Pande were among those who stepped in to assuage concerns.
Let's take a look at what the Opposition parties have said about the Agnipath scheme:
The Congress has demanded an immediate rollback of the Agnipath scheme, saying it is neither in the interest of the country nor its security.
The party's Rajya Sabha MP Deepinder Singh Hooda said the scheme should be taken back immediately and a three-year age relaxation be announced for youths who could not join the armed forces due to delays in recruitment.
"The government should immediately take back the Agnipath scheme. It is neither in favour of national security nor national interests and certainly not in favour of the country's youth," he told reporters at a press conference.
"We demand an age relaxation of three years as there has been no recruitment for the last three years. Anything less than three years is not acceptable," Hooda said.
Shiv Sena spokesperson Manisha Kayande termed Agnipath as yet another instance of how the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is "anti-army" though our brave soldiers are always prepared to sacrifice their lives for the nation.
"First there was the controversial policy of OROP which was opposed by the armed forces also, and now the Agnipath. Till now the youth could serve for 16 years and then if found physically fit, their tenure could be extended. But Agnipath will completely dilute it," said Kayande.
Slamming the scheme, she said, "The 56-inch chest is nothing but a hype of 'Modi and BJP', and now they are even acting against the interests of the courageous soldiers who secure our borders from enemies."
"The Agnipath scheme is clearly an injustice on the young people who are the future of the country. We demand that this scheme should be immediately withdrawn," demanded Kayande.
Nationalist Congress Party:
NCP chief spokesperson Mahesh Tapase said under the BJP rule, the country is witnessing its highest-ever unemployment ratio and the Centre is not serious about finding a long-term solution for the millions of jobless youth.
"The new Agnipath scheme envisages unemployed youths of the country to join the Indian Armed Forces for a short service tenure of four years, and then fails to safeguard the long-term service prospects of these hopeful young men and women. The scheme lacks imagination and direction, and this is evident from the massive protests that have erupted all over the country," said Tapase.
Tapase said while earlier Modi had promised 'One Rank One Pension', under Agnipath, there will be 'No Rank, No Pension' or even gratuity for the youth who take up the 4-year jobs in the armed forces.
"Under such a scenario, how and where will the youth learn new skills to get them proper jobs after leaving the armed forces, and even the private sector will not accept them with full pay scales and the dignity they deserve," pointed out Tapase.
The TMC criticised the scheme, calling it “anti-national” and demanding that it be withdrawn immediately.
“The BJP is embarking on these policies with a single aim: to win the 2024 Loksabha elections, by hook or by crook, the people can look after themselves! The AITUC urges the BJP-led Central Government to simply withdraw the Agnipath Scheme and not try to bulldoze it, for the sake of our people and our country,” the TMC said in a statement.
The party also said that the “scatterbrained” scheme has been rejected by retired military commanders and defence experts.
“There are others, retired military commanders, who know the military establishment inside out, who are flabbergasted at this scatterbrained Scheme. They have warned that on the one hand Agnipath will weaken the military establishment and on the other, endanger Society at large when Agniveers are let loose on the streets, unemployed and without pension,” the statement added.
Aam Aadmi Party:
The AAP alleged that PM Modi has "betrayed" the country's youth with the announcement of the 'Agnipath' scheme, and demanded that the decision be withdrawn.
In a video message, the party's Rajya Sabha MP and spokesperson Sanjay Singh also exhorted the country's youth to "wake up" and raise their voice against the Centre's decision "in a democratic manner", claiming that those to be joining the armed forces under the scheme would be left nowhere after completing the four years of their service.
"The Agnipath scheme for army recruitment is a clear betrayal by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with 20 crore youth of the country. The government has stabbed the youth of the country in their back," Singh charged.
He dubbed the recruitment scheme as anti-youth and claimed that it will only benefit the private companies as it will cater to their demand for trained security personnel.
Rashtriya Janata Dal:
RJD leader Sharad Yadav said the scheme is not a reform but an "attempt to damage" the existing system of recruitment in the armed forces and demanded that the Centre should "revisit" the initiative.
Yadav also expressed concern that after a four-year stint as a soldier, there are more chances of "misuse of the skill" acquired after coming out of the armed forces.
"In my opinion, it is not a reform but it is an attempt to damage even the existing system of recruitment in the armed forces," Yadav said in a statement.
"I do not agree that a young person having served for four years in the Army will get any respectable job except working as security guard in some private security agency," he said.
The RJD, meanwhile, has also extended its support for a 'Bihar Bandh' on June 18.
(With input from agencies)