Guest Post by SANJEEV KUMAR
Seven of us in my family including me, along with 90% of the young men from my village, have tried to join the army at least once in our lives. Here I am using the term ‘army’ to include all armed forces and paramilitary forces.
Three members of my family succeeded and are now in the army along with around a hundred others from my village. More than two-thirds of them gave bribes of 1-2 lakh rupees, either by selling land or using family savings, to join the army. There are others who were cheated by dalals. Hardly any of them would claim that they joined the army to serve the nation; rather, they joined the army to bring some relief to their starving families. Most of them teased and molested girls while travelling ticketless in trains to army recruitment centres in different parts of the country. Most of them including my brother, took 7-12 lakh rupees as dowry for marriage. Hardly any one of them wants their children to be in the army in preference to other civilian jobs.
My father also tried once to join the Indian army in the early 1980s but my grandfather hid his joining letter from him because my grandfather believed farming was better for him and for the family. Whenever they quarrelled in the early 2000s, I always heard my father blaming his father for the poverty of the family, because he did not allow him to join the army. It was around the same time that I first heard of anyone giving a bribe to join the army. It was my own uncle who was barely 5 to 7 years older than me, who sold his agricultural land to pay 1 lakh rupees to a dalal as bribe through his mamaji who was also in the army. I also heard of two young boys in my village who had earlier given around 40000 rupees as bribe to join Bihar Police but lost all their money to a dishonest agent. It was courageous of my uncle to risk his money even though the news of how two other village boys were cheated was fresh in the air. He had the courage to do that because his secondary dalal was his own mamaji. He had the courage to do that also because he had no other alternatives.