Sandip dighe reports for PUNE MIRROR 10 FEB 2015
The severity of military training is known to break the best of men — memorably portrayed in the '80s film, An Officer and a Gentleman. Closer home, perhaps for the first time in the history of National Defence Academy (NDA), a premier joint training institution of the Indian armed forces and armed forces of friendly foreign countries, as many as 40 cadets have dropped out of the 127th course (spanning the three-year period of 2011- 14), unable to bear the hardship of physical training. Up until now, the average dropout rate has veered between 10 and 15 from each batch.
At the academy, a cadet is allotted to one of the 18 squadrons, which then becomes his home for the next three years. The syllabi encompass science, technology, arts and military subjects. But, the regimen of physical conditioning includes drills, swimming, horse riding, a gamut of games and adventure activities — the hardships defined by the pitch of the training.
The shocking numbers bring to the fore the treatment meted out to cadets at the academy. Regarding the present exodus, sources at NDA point to strenuous physical training forced on the cadets on the pretext of making them strong. "During the course of 127 the atmosphere at the academy had become very unhealthy due to the physical strain. As a result of this, most of the cadets failed to adjust themselves here, preferring to quit."
A few cadets that Mirror spoke to echoed similar sentiments, emphasising the fact that authorities did not give enough room to fit in with the academy's atmosphere. Hunter squadron's cadet, Darshan Pawar, who was selected for 127 course of NDA, buckled under excessive physical training. Pawar, who quit the course soon after induction, is now pursuing engineering from a private college in Pune. He said, "I had never experienced such hardships in my life. I joined the academy bit late and my seniors forced extra physical rigour on me so that I could come up to the mark.
As a result of this, my hands became swollen, which was casually dismissed by my seniors. I had to give up. But I still wish to join the armed forces and have applied for technical entry now. I hope to make the cut." Another cadet, Abhishek Mishra, from Bangalore who is presently an engineering student, and who was the cadet from Mike Squadron, simply said, "I left the academy because I was not able to cope with its stringent rules."
A father of yet another cadet, who did not wish to divulge his identity, said,"The boys come from civilian backgrounds and it is very tough for them to adjust at the early stage of training. The authorities and trainers should give them room and help them cope with the academy's atmosphere. Forcing a severe schedule on them can never yield positive results. It was my son's dream to join the armed forces but, he had to give it up midway."
An officer at the level of a colonel from NDA stood his ground on the academy's training and said, "We have to equip cadets with mental, moral and physical attributes required to cope with challenges of future battlefields. Over the last two years, several steps have been initiated by the academy to make the atmosphere healthy. Positively, it has delivered the results too. From the present 133 course, for instance, only two cadets have left the academy."
Col (retd) Vinay Dalvi, who has done extensive research on NDA and also penned Victory India, a book on the selection and training system of the Indian armed forces, told Mirror, "I have probed and analysed the reasons behind the sharp rise in dropouts. I have learnt that Lt Gen Jatinder Singh, then commandant of NDA, did not pay enough attention to the cadets' issue. During the 127th course, the medical cases were high. Besides, non-structural training, including corporal punishments and ragging, were rampant in the academy.
Add to that, the harsh training under the squadron officers and senior cadets, which had also contributed to the number of people opting out of the course." Dalvi, however said, that today many positive steps are being taken by the authorities in order to create a healthy atmosphere. "Authorities have categorically asked duty officers to sleep at the squadron to avoid any untoward incidents, which is a welcome move," he said.