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Are Bengalis 'Army Shy?'

15 January, 2021 14:54:58
Are Bengalis 'Army Shy?'

When Army Day is celebrated every year across the country on 15 January to commemorate Field Marshal Kodandera M. Cariappa taking over as Indian Army’s first Commander-in-Chief from General Sir Francis Butcher (the last British Commander-in-Chief of India) in 1949, it marks a new chapter of the Indian Army. It is a major milestone in the country’s history. Bengal, which was the front runner in India's freedom struggle, and was led by fearless and enlightened minds, with the likes of Surya Sen to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, quite surprisingly over the years lacked an inclination towards joining the Indian Army. Hence, one question engulfs our minds: ‘How come the youth from Bengal are more inclined to other professions like Medical and Engineering, contrary to serving the country through Indian Army?’ After all our forefathers had led an armed struggle to usurp the British from their throne!

Bengal, which was the front runner in India's freedom struggle, and was led by fearless and enlightened minds, with the likes of Surya Sen to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, quite surprisingly over the years lacked an inclination towards joining the Indian Army.

Then why do Bengalis not want to join the army? Is this perception or truth? Is it due to lack of awareness about army recruitment as far as the non-officer cadres are concerned or a general apathy? Retired Army officers have different views to share. Some are of the opinion that more awareness campaigns are needed to woo more Bengalis into the service. While some senior officers believe, it is a complete misperception that Bengalis do not join the army or they have apathy for the service.

Lieutenant Colonel Sanjoy Das (retd), JAT Regiment, who led the first battalion during the Parliament attack

“The NCC presence in Bengal is far less visible than in some other states. The infrastructure set up in states like Kerala, Punjab and Maharashtra is more dynamic and the institution is much more proactive,” Lieutenant Colonel Sanjoy Das (Retd), JAT Regiment, told Get Bengal.

“The NCC presence in Bengal is far less visible than in some other states. The infrastructure set up in states like Kerala, Punjab and Maharashtra is more dynamic and the institution is much more proactive,” Lieutenant Colonel Sanjoy Das (Retd), JAT Regiment, told Get Bengal. In states with good NCC infrastructure, like Kerala, the awareness is high and therefore interest to join the forces is much keener.

“If you go to the NCC camps, you are motivated to go to the Army, Navy or Air Force. That is a natural progression, which is lacking in Bengal. If we want our urban and rural youth in Bengal to be part of the forces, awareness campaigns should be organized. Interestingly, in Kerala, in Medical Colleges 5 per cent is reserved for NCC. In jobs also, there is reservation for NCC cadets. In the Class-X Board exam, NCC certificate holders get 10 percent extra marks. That is how students are incentivized for joining NCC,” Das added.

In the rural sector, even in Bengal, motivation is often high as compared to the urban sector, where the students have exposure to multiple career choices. In many urban colleges, NCC, and even Scouts, is not present.

There are other advantages of joining the Armed Forces. Today the Defence forces are paying very well and there is job security. “There are advantages and people don’t know about the ranks and benefits. People must understand that only a part of the Army fights directly while there are several other departments and sections like logistics, engineering, medical, material management, signals and so on which do not see active combat. Once a person joins the Army after Class-XII with Science, he has so many options including the technical professions,” Das, who led the first battalion during the Parliament attack, said.

Das, who was in the Infantry and has spent 24 years in the Army, said that the misconception that joining the Army guaranteed death on the battlefield was the other reason Bengalis do not join the Army. Some senior army officials believe it is a complete misconception that Bengalis have apathy towards army services. Lack of a separate regiment called Bengal Regiment makes the Bengal manpower get divided in several other regiments and might be the reason behind such misconception, army officials believe.  

“There is no regiment in Bengal called ‘Bengal Regiment’ like Bihar Regiment or Madras Regiment. This may be root cause of the misconception that Bengalis stay away from the army. The Bengal Regiment was dismantled after the First war of independence or Great mutiny by British. I feel in a country which has so much employment, everybody intends to get a job. It is wrong to say that Bengalis have apathy for the army,” Colonel JSK Rao, SM Retd of Bihar Regiment, said.

There is a concept in the army, which is called Recruitable Male Population (RMP). People from Bengal are recruited according to RMP, which is fourth largest in India, army sources said.   

“We have three sappers in the country, Madras, Bombay and Bengal sappers, and among them Bengal sappers (Engineers) are stationed in Roorki. They are also engaged in building bridges, minefields. That they are not visible in Bengal, does not mean that Bengalis have apathy for the army. In Bengal’s Panagarh the Headquarter of 17 Corps is located. Even tribals from Bengal’s Purulia join the Bihar regiment. The army makes a balance in the caste structure also during recruitment which is well calculated,” Colonel JSK Rao, who commanded Assam Rifle, elaborated.

Rao, who has served the Indian Army for 31 years, said, “Large number of Bengalis prefer the Navy and Airforce. Many Bengalis, I have seen during my tenure, want to join technical services, ordinance and also medical services and signals division. Even a large diaspora of Bengalis living outside Bengal, in Jodhpur, Jaipur also joins the Indian Army. Bengal soldiers also join Rajput Regiment and other all India composition units,” Rao added.

Story Tag:
  • Army Day 2021

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