In a remote, forgotten corner of India in Kohima, Nagaland, lies a war memorial for all those who laid down their lives fighting the Japanese in Burma during the Second World War. On a monument at the foot of the cemetery is an inscription which reads ‘When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today.'
That in many ways represents the Indian Army. Things have changed, pay packages and privileges have improved; but still there are men who keep vigil so that the rest of the country can sleep safe at night.
“Fighting for your country is the highest honour one can get, but not many young people join the Army these days mainly because of a lack of awareness,” said Colonel S.S. Waradkar.
There are various modes of entry into the officer rank of the Army. A Class Twelve pass-out can apply to the National Defence Academy (NDA), Pune. After completing the three year course which will be a Bachelor's programme in science, one can pursue higher education or apply to become a cadet either in the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun, or the Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai.
A candidate who already holds a graduate degree (engineers go into Technical corps) can directly apply to either of the Academies. The written exams for NDA, IMA and OTA are conducted twice a year; after which there is a Service Selection Board (SSB) interview followed by a medical test.
While cadets passing out of IMA get a permanent commission, those passing out of OTA get a Short Service Commission (SSC). Women cadets are eligible to apply only for SSC and they get into support services corps.
“The SSC is for a period of 10 years and one can avail an extension of four years. It is for those who want to serve in the Army for some time, get an experience of Army life and then move on,” said a senior Colonel at OTA, Chennai. “A stint in the Army is a great asset. The system is well organised and institutionalised. Corporates look for a lot of the skills that are imparted in the defence services and those who go out get hired very soon.”
According to Colonel Waradkar, Army officers are well trained in man management because they are constantly involved in leading jawans from different places and backgrounds under adverse conditions.
But in spite of the gated community life, two months of leave in a year, the perks and the status; Army life is a tough one, he added.
In the end, when push comes to shove and you are on the frontlines leading 20 men into the battle field, every decision counts and an officer has responsibility not only for the men he is commanding but also their families back home. To face it requires a lot of hard work and training, and it does not come easy.