Charm for the olive green fast fading among Punjab youth

Charm for the olive green fast fading among Punjab youth

The fascination for the olive green uniform, now it seems, is fast waning among Punjab youth. The number of youth joining the Indian Military Academy (IMA) from Punjab has gone down drastically over the years.

In the last five years, the numbers have reduced to nearly half.  From 80 Young Officers (YO) from Punjab in the Indian Military Academy (IMA) in 2005, the number has gone down to just 41 YO in the 2009 (spring-autumn) batch. The trend is peculiar as many other states have followed a more or less consistent pattern of representation in the Army.

Talking to Deccan Herald, IMA Deputy Commandant Maj Gen Bal said “Punjabi youth, perhaps, see greener pastures elsewhere. Real estate prices have gone up. They have more money, land holdings have decreased and youth from Punjab, it appears prefer to settle abroad. But we hope to see a reversal in trend,”

Uttar Pradesh, with 183 young officers in 2009, has been consistently leading the charts, followed by Uttarkhand. The numbers include regular entries, technical graduate course, special commission officers and those who join for technical entry scheme. Interestingly, even in insurgency-hit Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), there has been no decline in youth wanting to join the Army.  

Some experts attribute the development to the rise in the number of Punjab youth getting addicted to drugs. Dr Daljit Singh Cheema, Political Advisor to the Punjab Chief Minister, said the situation is of utmost concern for Punjab and the crisis cannot be addressed in isolation unless a concerted effort is made to check the drug menace in the state.
Alarmed over Punjab youth distancing themselves from the defence services, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal has also announced Rs one lakh each as incentive for Punjab youth who joins the Army.

Data with the IMA reveals another grim aspect of representation from states. In the last six years, representation of youth from North-Eastern states has been insignificant.  “This year, a large number of cadets will pass out of the IMA. But in the last six years since 2004, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim have contributed just 20 young officers in the Army.

The latest June 2010 batch has just one young officer each from Mizoram, Meghalaya and Nagaland. Sikkim has no representation,” an officer said. States including Haryana, Rajasthan, Bihar and Himachal Pradesh are way ahead of Punjab in representing the Army, sources said.

Prof Rakesh Dutta, Head of the Department of Defence and National Security Studies, Panjab University, Chandigarh, said Punjab had long been overrepresented, but the trend now has changed.

 “Military has been pride for Punjab. The state bore the brunt of wars. With land prices soaring, the disposal income in Punjab household has gone up. Youth are attracted to greener pastures elsewhere. The addiction to drugs is also having its effect on the youth. But the trend will change with much lucrative pay scale in the Army,” he said.

Deputy Director Punjab Sanik Welfare Board Col Manmohan Singh (retd) said, “We hope with our efforts, more youth will join the Army this year onwards. Besides Rs One lakh incentive, the government has also decided to give Rs One lakh each year for three years to those who join the NDA.”  

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