Agra: “Jo nahi padhta hai, vo Army ke liye try karta hai. Agar padh le toh officer na ban jaye? (Those who can’t study try to join the army. If they had studied, wouldn’t they become officers?),â says Gajendra, 23, from the village of Sakatpur in Uttar Pradesh.
Sakatpur is one of the 422 villages that dot the Chaharbatti region of Agra. In this Jat-dominated belt, nearly every youngster competes for a government job, preferably in the armed forces â with all the perks of being a jawan, including job security, pensions, dowries and social status – and anxiety reigns over the new Agnipath Recruitment Program.
Most young people recognize that anyone with a Class 10 certificate can try their hand at entering the military as a general duty soldier. This invariably means that the class 12 exam, or intermediate as it is called in this part of the country, as well as graduation and post-graduation, are redundant for these young people.
Graduate studies are for the âpadhne valley“(the studious) as the villagers of Chaharbatti say – those who are either undergoing training to sit for the National Defense Academy (NDA) and Combined Defense Services (CDS) exams, or for other professions such as teaching and public service.
âMost Jat families prefer to send their children to the defense forces. Army is the first preference followed by Indian Air Force, Uttar Pradesh Police and Navy, Border Security Force (BSF), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), etc. The studious opt for NDA, CDS, SSC CGL (Staff Higher Level Combined Examination of the Selection Commission, for central government jobs). This region has also produced IAS and IPS officers,â says Niranjan Chahar, who trains students in physical fitness exams for the defense forces and SSC CGL.
The Chaharbatti region is a cradle of defense personnel, he adds.
Apart from being the birthplace of Indian international cricketer Deepak Chahar, Chaharbatti is home to well-known personalities such as a former BSF Additional Managing Director, Shaytan Singh Chahar, who headed the BSF academy in Tekanpur. âLately, Chaharbatti has also produced many IPS and IAS officers,â says Niranjan.
A visit to the region easily shows how many of those considering officer rank in the army outnumber those vying for recruitment to lower rank positions such as private (general duty) among others. Hundreds of youngsters start preparing for physical fitness tests to go to the defense forces, a majority of them for the army, soon after their arrival
Classes 9 and 10.
According to youth mood, the biggest dislike of the Agnipath program is the likelihood that Agniveers will face a test at the end of the four-year service period and the need to undergo further study in case they wouldn’t. the regular frame.
The Agnipath recruitment program for the armed forces, launched this year, will recruit all new soldiers for four years and retain only 25% of them after that period as career soldiers – which has prompted reviews and mass protests on the future prospects of the dismissed ‘Agniveers’.
While some have praised the program for how it will reduce the age profile of the armed forces, many veterans have criticized it as a job creation tool, among other reasons. The young protesters, however, see it as a threat to employment, and not a generator of jobs.
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tradition of service
âPatriotism runs in Jat’s blood. It’s a consideration ‘shahan’ (pride) that a family member is in the army,â says Anil, a youth from Mankenda village in Chaharbatti region.
Traditionally a farming community, the Jats were considered a martial race by the British for recruitment into their forces and served in the British Indian Army in large numbers. The tradition of joining the armed forces, especially the army, continues to this day within the community, which is settled in western and eastern Uttar Pradesh as well as other parts of the north. from India.
âIt’s a tradition that one child from each family is in the army,â says Niranjan. âIt’s like this: if a neighbour’s child is selected, the parents nudge their sons to make sure they too are selected for the army. Those who are intelligent opt ââfor teaching, etc. But, in every home, a child must go to the army. In the villages, people think there should be a ‘naukri’ (work) first. â¦ Dasvi-barahvi karne ke baad, sirf Army hai, aur koi naukri nahi hai. (The military is the only institution that gives jobs after passing grades 10 and 12.)
The perception is shared by young and old in Chaharbatti, where residents have regularly seen army paratroopers landing in the drop zone of the nearby village of Malpura for years.
Deepesh, a 23-year-old who is over the age limit because the army had suspended recruitment for the past two years due to the pandemic, says he and his friends saw paratroopers landing in the area of airdrop since they were kids. âWhen we see them, we feel that we too should be part of them. When ‘bharti’ (recruitment) is starting, about 500 young people are coming into the field,â he says.
While some young people have an advantage in âphysical strengthâ, others excel in preparing for written tests. âFitness can easily pass the physical fitness exam and others opt for other sections of the army like soldier (trader), soldier (technical) etc,â says Rahul Kumar, a young 24 year old from Sakatpur village. in the Kiraoli district of Chaharbatti.
Rahul adds that those who are “not very sharp” in studies or who cannot invest in education are preparing to join the army as general service soldiers.
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“The entry of the army at all costs”
There are many like Bhikham Chahar who train local youths in their quest to join the armed forces. Some do this for free, while others charge a nominal fee.
After a bit of persuasion, Bhikham â who couldn’t follow in his father’s footsteps and serve in the military himself â opens up about the dalaal (broker), who he says thrives on part of the process involved in selecting army recruits.
âEven if youngsters have the qualities in them to enter the military, they might be unable to pass the medical examination. this stage which is most prone to manipulation by doctors. Officers help to ensure that young people get through this stage. Some even guarantee that they will help clear up the whole process because of their connections to officers army superiors,” he said.
In the same way, Rahul says that those who pass the physical exam but are unsure if they will pass the written test opt ââfor the services of “agents”. âThe officers contact the youngsters soon after they are shortlisted for the physical tests and demand Rs 3 lakh to Rs 4 lakh to ensure they pass the written exam. Most young people just accept their help because they don’t want to take any risks,â he says.
What has added to the anxiety of Chaharbatti youths is the Agnipath program, which many fear could lead to greater competition among defense recruits, who would do their best to make it into the top 25%. ‘Agniveers to be definitively absorbed at the end of four years.
âOnly 25% will be absorbed. Those who are sharp will be fine, and those who are not will have to leave,â says Ajay Singh from Sakatpur village.
The Agnipath scheme is seen as disrupting the traditional path. Many young Chaharbatti admit that they have stayed away from prolonged studies for both traditional and financial reasons. Agnipath would also force them to consider other options, which they say they are not ready for.
When asked if he was unsure if he was among the cream of the Agniveers, Ajay replied that not everyone could afford coaching and “expensive education” in the villages. Landing a job in the military was possible for someone who had gone to public school – until now, he adds.
While private schools have sprung up in the area in recent years, many families send their children to the public schools closest to the villages.
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Worries galore among young people
On June 20, the military released terms and conditions for potential Agniveer candidates. He said Agniveers’ applications to join the regular cadre would be reviewed based on objective criteria, including performance over the four-year commitment period. Although the terms do not mention the possibility of a test, there is a consensus among Army aspirants that a test will most likely occur.
âThe intelligent will be absorbed. What will we do, if we don’t eliminate it? And, if it’s only based on a test, won’t we be susceptible to the whims of the unit commander? asks Deepesh from Mankenda village.
While there was reports that the Center plans to launch a special three-year competency-based bachelor’s degree program to help Agniveers acquire the skills required for positions in the civilian sector, young Chaharbatti are generally unaware.
âAt 25, we are going to compete with those far ahead of usâ¦ We will have to go through the same cycle of examinations, university registration and studies, that civilians our age will have already done at this that time. I think we will only get the position of security officer,â says Anil.
Retired army colonel says Project Agnipath was ‘vague’ and government erred in moving ahead before considering doubts and questions of hundreds of thousands of aspirants .
âThe army is a body that has proven its worth because of the regimentation, the good nature and the camaraderie among those who make up the regiments. The concerns of young people are real, especially since within four years a young person will be mostly trained and cannot really be brought to the fore, âsaid Colonel VPS Chauhan (retired), who participated in the India -India 1965 and 1971. The Pakistan Wars and the Siachen Conflict, told ThePrint. âThe program seems vague and hastily announced and the rationale for its implementation begs belief. There is also a lack of communication.
This report has been updated to replace a veteran quote.
(Editing by Tony Rai)
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