Madras Sappers troops to get ITI degrees after service

An 18th-century cannon outside the Madras Sappers Museum in Bengaluru on Saturday. DH PHOTO/AKHIL KADIDAL

Bengaluru's largest home-grown military unit, the Madras Engineers Group (MEG), has acquired accreditation as an Industrial Training Institute (IIT) that will help keep its soldiers gainfully employed once they leave the army. 

The average shelf life of a soldier in the army is 20 years, the MEG said, adding that the ITI accreditation will impart degrees to many of its soldiers indicating their qualification in various trades, which would make them on a par with tradesmen in the civilian field. 

"At the current time, this pilot programme has 155 soldiers within its ambit under four different trade classifications — among them, surveying and electrical work, which they can take into civilian life," explained an officer of the group, wishing anonymity. 

The acquisition of this accreditation shows the changing nature of the MEG, as it prepares to commemorate its 239th Corps Day on Monday, indicating its genesis from an imperial-era unit that helped build Bengaluru, to a modern unit of the Indian Army keeping up with the times. 

Corps Day is meant to recognise the MEG's forging with the Bombay and Bengal Sappers into the army's Corps of Engineers on November 18, 1780. But the group will mark the day by doing what it always does: going about its business, the officer said. 

Notwithstanding demands to supply combat engineers, the unit had, until a few decades ago, a mandate to build infrastructure across urban spaces and in underdeveloped parts of the country. In Bengaluru alone, the group was responsible for the construction of iconic structures such as the Oriental Building on St Mark's Road.

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