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Is Smriti Irani's Sainik School push an effort to militarise kids?

Pinaki Bhattacharya | Updated on: 10 February 2017, 1:50 IST

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) has harboured a wish for long: to militarise the grass-roots of Hindustan. Now it has got an opportunity. With the New Education Policy ready to be brought to the public domain, Smriti Irani, the HRD minister has a plan to push forward that desire.

Irani has proposed that the number of Sainik Schools be exponentially increased. Some say this is to inculcate a military ethic among "pacific" Hindu boys and girls, who then would ostensibly seek to join the armed forces of the country.

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The historical parallel is the Hitler Youth of Germany of the 1930s Germany who would then help Hitler break the barrier of Prussian soldiery that pervaded then. 

However, among the top notches of the Indian Army the opinion is overwhelmingly against the idea. Retired lieutenant general, Prakash Katoch - a former para-commando - says that there is a necessity to instill discipline amongst the youth and a reverence for the tricolour, but the route to do it is through the National Cadet Corps (NCC).

Former vice chief of the Indian Army, retired lieutenant general Philip Campose sidestepped the issue by talking about his experience at a Sainik School in Jamnagar of Gujarat. This school had the children of the local businessmen of the area who would later join their own family businesses. "So it was evident that none of the boys would go to the army," Campose holds.

However, what he did not say is that they are citizen sentinels of "Hindustan" that RSS desires. Of course, both the leading lights of the army's officer corps pointed out that the Sainik Schools are actually for every section of the population - Muslims, Christians or children of any community could join.

Sainik School pass-outs don't necessarily join the armed forces

Another issue allied to the Sainik School's numerical expansion is the promise it holds out about definite employment in the armed forces' officer ranks, once the students follow-through by completing the three year stint at the National Defence Academy and a year at the Indian Military Academy.

But isn't there a need for the army's size to be reduced, especially need to be cut to make it a more fourth generation warfare- ready force? The mechanisation and automation, and the increased sophistication of the weapon systems calls for more tech savvy men and officers.

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At a mention of these facts, both generals point out that there is now a shortage of 6,000-8,000 officers in the army. While the Irani policy will not help the numbers to rise in the short term, in the long term they can keep a bench strength that can be tapped into at any point in time.

But they clearly point out that the pass-outs of the Sainik Schools do not necessarily go to the armed forces. Instead, they take up various professions in the civilian field. Katoch points out: "Increased digitisation of the armed forces will initially require higher number of officers to be inducted, and then prune the numbers to the more tech savvy ones."

Whatever may be the reason for the proposed increase in the number of Sainik Schools, it can be assumed correctly that the Irani policy goes well well with the long-term belief of the RSS that the passive Hindu majority needs a steroid shot of militarisation.

(The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.)

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First published: 29 April 2016, 2:35 IST