In order to boost the number of Indian domiciled Gorkha soldiers in the Army, efforts are being made to tap into the Gorkha youth settled in the north eastern parts of the country even as the Army is raising a new battalion of Gorkha troops.
According to Lt Gen Ravi Thodge, Colonel of the Regiment of the First Gorkha Rifles, the first Gorkha regiment to be raised by the British in 1815 and which is celebrating its 200 years of raising here at this quaint British cantonment town in Himachal Pradesh, the Army is looking to increase the number of Gorkha troops in its rank from the North East.
“There has always been a healthy mix of Nepalese and Indian Gorkha troops in our regiments and there has been a trickle of soldiers who have been recruited from the North East, but now we want to increase the numbers that we get from there,” said Lt Gen Thodge. The General is presently posted as Master General of Ordnance in Army Headquarters and is in Subathu to participate in the re-union of Gorkha troops, serving and retired, here at the regimental centre. This will also mark the 200 years of the service of Gorkha soldiers in the Indian Army.
According to Lt Gen Thodge, there is no problem in getting recruits from Nepal and whatever political issues that might exist have had no effect on the number of young men from that country queuing to join the Indian Army’s Gorkha Regiments. ‘There is a significant population of Gorkhas in the North East, particularly in Sikkim, and this number can be increased,” he said.
The Army has been striving to achieve a ratio of 60:40 (Nepalese and Indian troops respetively) in its Gorkha battalions, but this ratio has been dwindling over the years. An officer associated with the 14 Gorkha Training Centre (GTC) in Subathu, home to the First and Fourth Gorkha Rifles, said Indian Gorkha recruits had been joining in large numbers lately. However, there has not been any shortfall in the number of Nepalese youth wanting to join the Indian Army.
Lt Gen Thodge also informed that for the first time in many years a new Gorkha Battalion was being raised and that this new unit is coming up in the First Gorkha Rifles. The 6/1 Gorkha Rifles or Sixth Battalion of First Gorkha Rifles is under raising in Subathu and has already been christened as the ‘Kanchi Paltan’ or the youngest battalion of the regiment.
“The new battalions will be raised in other Gorkha regiments too in a phased manner as has been envisaged in the modernisation plan, particularly in those regiments which have only five battalions each,” Lt Gen Thodge said.
More than 100 Gorkha veterans from Nepal have especially come to participate in the 200th annversary celebrations here. Among the veterans is nearly 90 year old British officer, Lt Col JP Cross (retd) who served in the pre-Independence era and is now settled in Nepal.
The First Gorkha Rifles owns its birth to the British victory over Gorkha soldiers at Maluan Fort near Bilaspur in Himachal Pradesh. The British were so impressed with the valour of the Gorkhas that they decided to raise a Regiment comprising them and the first such unit came up in Subathu in 1815. Since then the First Gorkha Rifles is known as the ‘Malaun Regiment’.
The bicentenary celebrations of the Gorkhas are also being conducted in the British Army and the year long affair will culminate, in India and in the United Kingdom, in April 2016. The three-day celebrations at Subathu were kicked off today with a special Sainik Sammelan addressed by the Colonel of the Regiment.