In the wake of surgical strikes along the LoC, the Indian Army is getting praise from across the country. But have you ever wondered what does it take to be in the Indian Army? Well, we all are aware of coaching institutes which help students crack the toughest of competitions. But a centre for training youths to be in the army is unheard of.
Meet Colonal Ajay Kothiyal, who has found his definition of nationalism by training over 1800 youth, out of which about 1400 have been selected in the Indian Army.
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Born and brought up in Uttarakhand, Kothiyal found talent and enthusiasm among the youth but realised they simply lack guidance to pursue their dreams. “Since I belong to this region, villagers approached me and asked whether I could recruit their sons in the army. I said I can help them prepare for the examination that include physical fitness and written test,” said Koityal.
Colonel Ajay Kothiyal is the principal of Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Dehradun and has won numerous gallantry awards.
In 2013, Kothiyal, with the help of an instructor, trained 30 youngsters of which 28 got recruited in the Garhwal Rifles. This news spread like wildfire and more candidates approached him.
“I saw tremendous potential and zeal among the youngsters who wanted to serve the nation. Unfortunately, they were not aware of various recruitments conducted in army and police. So, we thought of getting them acquainted with the life and responsibilities of an Indian soldier,” said Kothiyal.
Encouraged by the response, Kothiyal started a non-profit trust in 2015 — Youth Foundation that operates six camps in various districts of Uttarakhand.
The camps are run in places like old schools. Suraj Negi, in-charge of the Foundation, elaborates the daily routine. “Our students are trained by retired army instructors. The discipline and drill is similar but not as strict as how cadets are trained in the Indian Army. We make them do exercises, teach them on how to crack the exams and encourage them to help people,” said Negi.
In order to channelise their energy and make them socially responsible, the trust lets them undergo various tasks. “We make them do constructive activities that help them build their stamina and team spirit. Like, an old woman’s farm was devastated due to cloud burst. She had no support. We sent 100 boys to re-build the farm. She was so flattered that she cooked steaming rice for all of them,” said Negi.
But the training is not limited to boys as girls too want to serve the nation. As many as 328 girls have enrolled in the camps this year.
He also feels that through these camps, the youth is better trained to manage natural calamity and will not migrate to cities for jobs. “In the recent past, Uttarakhand has faced cloud burst and other such disasters because of which, alot of families lost their properties and savings. When these candidates join the army, they’ll send their savings back to their families, which in turn will help building the economy of the state,” explained Kothiyal.
They say if you take one step towards a needy, others follow you. Now, doctors from reputed hospitals have started visiting hills to help villagers. “Due to the support of the students, the doctors and teachers have started going to the remote places to help patients.” Negi said
While initial expenditure was met by Kothiyal, the Youth Foundation has now started getting support from big trusts too.