India resumes Gorkha recruitment after two-year lull

April 18th, 2009 - 2:58 pm ICT by IANS  

By Sudeshna Sarkar
Kathmandu, April 18 (IANS) After a lull of two years, India has resumed the recruitment of Nepalis for its Gorkha regiments after a full nod by the Maoist government that had in the past pledged to halt all hiring in the Indian and British armies.

Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood had met Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda earlier this year to discuss the recruitment issue.

After the former revolutionary leader assured the Indian envoy that his government would not stop the recruitment of Gorkhas - the hilly Nepali tribe famed for their courage and loyalty - the Indian Army set in motion recruitment processes in Dharan in eastern Nepal and Pokhara in central Nepal.

While the Indian Army, as a matter of policy, does not disclose how many men it recruits a year, there were over 13,000 applications. The initial two-month screening process ended last month.

Currently, there are about 27,000 Gorkhas in the Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army. The Assam Rifles, which in the past used to deploy Gorkhas as well, has now changed its recruitment procedures.

India halted recruitment in Nepal two years ago due to the political instability and doubts about the policy of the Maoists, who while campaigning for last year’s elections had pledged to stop the “shameful” hiring of Nepalis as “mercenaries” in foreign armies.

However, after the Maoists won the elections and came to power last August, the former guerrillas softened their stand and said the recruitments would continue till a conducive atmosphere and ample job opportunities were created in Nepal to retain its outgoing young workforce.

The tremendous response to the Indian Army’s call for soldiers is due to four primary reasons.

Unlike the British Army, which provides home leave once in three years, Nepalis serving in India across the border can return home in an hour to attend emergencies, weddings and other family reasons. They can also obtain good education for their children in India, which is difficult in Britain due to financial and other reasons.

The new pensions announced by India recently are extremely attractive. A Gorkha, who now retires as a captain in the Indian Army, would get Rs.14,000-15,000 (IRS) as pension, which is more than the money received by a major general in the Nepal Army.

But perhaps the biggest reason is that there is no discrimination in the Indian Army unlike in the British Army.

The pay, perks and pension are the same for Indians as well as Nepalis.

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