New Delhi: With Nepal’s political crisis worsening, the Indian Army’s plans to recruit Gorkhas from that country into its infantry battalions this year has been badly hit.
“Currently there are about 1,500 vacancies for Gorkhas from Nepal in the 35 battalions of 800-men each from the seven Gorkha Rifles regiments. But this crisis has led us to a rethink,” an official said on Wednesday.
“It would be difficult to carry out the recruitment rallies at Dharan in eastern Nepal and Pokhara in central Nepal, which are the two recruitment centres for Gorkhas,” the official said.
About two years ago, at the height of Maoists insurgency in Nepal, India had stopped its recruitment rallies in that country.
After Maoists were voted to power in the first democratic elections last year, their leader Pushp Kamal Dahal had opposed Gorkhas joining the Indian Army.
But Nepal agreed to India enlisting the hilly tribesmen famous for their courage and loyalty following a meeting between Indian Ambassador to Nepal Rakesh Sood and Prachanda recently, the official said.
Sources said there were over 15,000 applications from Gorkhas for the 1,500 vacancies.
The Indian Army recruits Gorkhas from both Nepal and India in the ratio of 40:60 in each of its Gorkha Rifles battalions. The strength of Gorkhas from Nepal in the Indian Army currently stood at around 15,000 men out of the total 28,000 Gorkhas.
Gorkhas from Nepal willingly join the Indian Army as it provides them employment and post-retirement benefits.
The Gorkhas in the Indian Army also get to go home in Nepal by just crossing the border within hours to attend to domestic issues at short notices.
The British Army, which recruited Gorkhas since its colonial days, currently has only two battalions of Gorkhas. But unlike the Indian Army, the British Army provided home leave for its Gorkha soldiers only once in three years and the soldiers have to travel across continents before reaching home.
By serving the Indian Army, the Gorkhas also look forward to the quality, affordable education their wards get in schools run by the defence ministry. But in Britain, education was a costly proposition.
The new pay scales, pension and perks recently announced by the government, which are applicable to Gorkha soldiers too, ensures at least Rs15,000 pension for a soldier retiring as honorary captain. This amount is much more than what a senior officers retiring from the Nepali Army gets, the sources said.