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Army is career of choice for young Maduraites

S. Sundar
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Youth train hard to qualify at recruitment rally to be held in May

Let’s do it for the nation:Exercise under way at the stadium.— Photo: S. James
Let’s do it for the nation:Exercise under way at the stadium.— Photo: S. James

  ‘Panthikku mundhu, padaikku pindhu,” (Be in the front for the feast, at the back for the battle) is an old Tamil saying that is often heard during feasts at marriage halls in Tamil Nadu. But, youngsters of Madurai are proving the saying wrong by stepping forward to join the Army. 

The MGR Stadium in Race Course is packed with young men sporting colourful vests and trousers, training hard to qualify at the Army recruitment rally slated for early May. Some are seen running on the track, others practising long jump. Yet others dangle from goal posts doing pull ups. In the middle of the ground are youth involved in doing military-type drills. 

The crowd is unusually high at the stadium, thanks to the free training provided by the district administration to help students train to face the tough rigours of the Indian Army. The training camp is a first for the district administration.   Over 600 candidates took part in the 15-day free training to prepare them for the Army. 

SDAT coaches

 The administration has provided a sports facility for the candidates to train and also roped in coaches from the Sports Development Authority of Tamil Nadu (SDAT) to help raise their fitness levels. “We find many of the youths fail at the physical tests in the Army recruitment rallies for they lack proper techniques. Since, we wanted maximum number of youths from our district to get good employment with the Indian Army, the programme was planned to provide them good training that could improve their stamina,” the Collector, Anshul Mishra, said.

He hoped that the youth of Madurai grabbed the opportunity. He wished that at least 500 of them made it to the Army. “The basic selection procedure at the Army recruitment rally involves an endurance test. 

The candidates have to cover 1,600 metres in 6.22 minutes. Only those who clear this hurdle can go for further selection. And it is here where many of the candidates fail and leave the ground dejected,” says District Sports Officer S. Murugan. 

This is where the free training camp comes in. While a good number of candidates look strong and fit, many of them are obese.  Some run like cheetahs, while others could manage only to jog and not complete the course.

But, win or lose, they are united by a common dream: they all want to join the Army.

Coaches claim that only 20 per cent of the candidates tested on the first day of their training were able to clear the run.

With the endurance test forming the basis for selection, candidates are chosen for their running and then trained in batches of 20.  With the crowd swelling each day, the number of candidates in each batch has gone up to 30, Mr. Murugan said. 

Strength matters

T. Sathyanarayanan, one of the coaches, said, the strengths and weaknesses in the boys are identified and they are trained accordingly. Some boys, who are good in running, but have weak shoulders. They fail to do 10 pull ups. So they are trained to do push ups and pulls ups to meet the strength criterion.  Some boys with strong arms are good in doing pull ups, but lack fast movement of legs. So they are made to concentrate more on running.”  Unlike boys of their age who are restless and disobedient, these candidates show keen interest in learning and try very hard, the Sports Officer said. This reveals their determination to join the Army. 

The training camp draws new arrivals each day. The boys who are not able to run to the expected speed on the first day pick up pace as the training progresses. 

C. Sundarapandi of Sellur, a B.Com. graduate, said he joined the training to make up for his failure to qualify at the police constable recruitment. “I hope the formal training will hone my skills and I will surely join the Army,” he said exuding confidence. R. Vignesh, a diploma holder in mechanical engineering, has been coming here since the first day. 

Many of his batch mates could cover the 1,600 metres in 7 to 7.30 minutes. He has shed his anxiety and is bubbling with confidence.

Anxiety factor

 The coaches said that the training on the same ground where the recruitment will be conducted will remove the anxiety of the candidates.  “They will get used to the procedure and not panic,” Mr. Murugan said.  The major advantage of the training is the friendly environment.  The boys are encouraged to pick up the tricks slowly. The smiles, not the frowns, on the faces of the coaches too encourage the boys. 

  After two hours of training between 7.30 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., the district administration distributes a sachet of buttermilk or rose milk sponsored by the Aavin. In addition, they are each provided with that storehouse of energy, the humble banana.

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