MADIKERI: Known as the land of warriors, Kodagu district has contributed largely to the Indian Army. While there used to be at least one person serving in the Army from every family in Kodagu, the number has gradually decreased.“The number of youngsters attending direct recruitment for the Indian Army has decreased in Kodagu and this number is seeing an increase in North Karnataka. However, there are still a considerable number of men and women hailing from Kodagu who have attained high ranks in the Indian Army,” says Kayapanda Shashi Somaiah, a writer based in Madikeri.
He adds, “Currently, there are over 100 men from Kodagu in the Indian Army and are designated with high ranks including that of Rear Admiral, Lieutenant General, Training Commando and so on. Apart from this, there are nearly ten women from this district who hold ranks of wing commander, major and captain.”
Nevertheless, the number of soldiers from the district being selected in direct Army recruitment rounds has drastically decreased. “The recruitment process has become stringent. Along with being physically fit, aspirants are required to pass written tests that are either in Hindi or English. Also, the education qualification plays an important role in the selection process as today’s soldier is not just required to load a weapon and fire. He has to be well-versed in Science and Mathematics as he must be able to use advanced technological machines. Even in the recent surgical strike, High Altitude High Operation (HAHO) was followed and the soldier was required to know the proper ground reference and other technical information,” explains Major Nanda Nanjappa (retired).
He goes back in time and recalls how he had helped many youngsters from Kodagu join the Army during his service. “A family had asked me to help their son join the Army. I had taken this boy along with me and he used to work at the Army kitchen. While he wasn’t paid any salary at the beginning, he gradually attained a job there,” recalls Major Nanda. But this cannot be done today as he says, “There are no strings to be pulled now.”
Lieutenant Colonel Geetha M (retired) states, “In 2017, during the recruitment process that took place in Kodagu, 900 candidates applied for the selection process from the district. However, only 12 were selected among them. Since physical activity is less these days, the applicants seem to have lost in the selection process. Also, the overall outlook of parents and kids has changed. While a few years ago, ex-army men’s children always joined the Army, it is not the scenario today as there are lot many job opportunities and job security. A fresher in IT sector gets paid nearly Rs 40,000 and this is an easier job compared to joining the Army. The change in lifestyle in the once agriculture-based district has resulted in a paradigm shift.”
In the recent Army recruitment process that took place in Madikeri in October, candidates from 13 districts of Karnataka took part. Among them, the highest applicants were from Hassan district -- a total of 1,993 out of the 9,572 applicants. Kodagu had third highest number of applicants – 1,495 -- even though the recruitment process took place in the district.
Sanju, a student of Field Marshal KM Cariappa College had appeared for Army recruitment selection this year. He is disappointed over not being able to crack the test and says, “I failed in the running test as I could not complete 1,600m in 5.45 minutes. However, I will appear again for the exam next year.”
Darshan Bopaiah, a youngster working at a resort in Madikeri, was an Army aspirant and he is the son of an ex-army man. He settled in for a much easier job as he explains, “I used to be fascinated with the stories my father narrated while he worked at the Army. While I was looking forward to joining the Army, I could not crack the written test and after that I left the dream of joining the Army and tried other jobs.”
Colonel Kandrathanda C Subbaiah (retired) opines that internet has made youngsters lazy and has resulted in them opting for soft jobs over the Army. “Joining the Army was pride for people of Kodagu and they joined it by choice. While Defence was the number one choice for them, the scenario has changed. The increasing opportunities in soft jobs – that do not require physical or mental alertness -- is being opted by youngsters. While the numbers in Indian Army from Kodagu district has reduced, the youngsters from North Karnataka are increasingly joining the Army,” states Col Subbaiah.
He points out how the Sainik School in Kodagu – that trains future army men – is populated mostly by students from North Karnataka. “There are less than a handful of students from Kodagu at the Sainik School,” he says.
Nevertheless, he says that a group of ex-army men from Kodagu are trying to get the numbers high as he explains, “We are organizing training programmes for youngsters where they are being trained to answer written exams. With the head-start of this plan from Major General Arjun Muthanna (retired), a training programme was recently organized at Kushalnagar and will soon be organized across the district. Ex-army officer Marchanda Ganesh is working at ground level conducting these training programmes across the district.”
He expresses the hope that the numbers from Kodagu district in the Indian Army will pick up. “We are hopeful that more people will join the Army and the number of people from Kodagu in the Indian Army will rise in another two years,” he says.
Steps being taken to encourage youngsters
War Memorial at Balugodu in Virajpet Taluk has names of all martyred soldiers of Kodagu. The memorial invokes a spirit of patriotism and is aimed at encouraging youngsters to join the Indian Army
General Thimmaiah Museum (an ongoing project at Madikeri) will retell the story of one of the greatest Generals of the Indian Army.
The museum aims at instilling patriotism among visitors while also encouraging youngsters to join the Army Statues of Field Marshal K M Cariappa, Major Mangerira Muthanna, General Thimmaiah, Squadron Leader Ajjamada B Devaiah adorn Madikeri town and narrate the contribution of people of Kodagu in the Indian Army
A few reasons for decreasing numbers
Increasing number of opportunities in soft jobs
Paradigm shift due to lack of enthusiasm, interest and hard work
Preference for more stable and less challenging jobs
Tougher entrance examination
The recruitment process has become stringent. Along with being physically fit, aspirants are required to pass written tests that are either in Hindi or English. Also, the education qualification plays an important role in the selection process as today’s soldier is not just required to load a weapon and fire.
— Major Nanda Nanjappa (retired)