Cadets at the advanced leadership camp in Fort William. Picture by Sudeshna Banerjee
Bengal figures among the “bottom three-four states” in terms of the number of recruitments in the armed forces. To give the figure a boost, the National Cadet Corps (NCC) has drawn up a blueprint which has now been pressed into action.
A 10-day advanced leadership camp (ALC) was held earlier this month at Fort William. “We chose 300 cadets from across the state. Through lectures by senior officials, we gave them exposure to IAS, IPS and the various wings of the armed forces. Some of the cadets are from very good colleges. Some are from interior areas. At the end of the camp, we are choosing 50 who we think are officer material. They will be sent for further training so they can appear for the Services Selection Board (SSB) examination,” said Major General Shyam Srivastava, additional director-general of the local NCC directorate. “Even if some of them make it, our effort would be worth it.”
SSB is the personality and intelligence test which analyses each candidate’s potential and compatibility through a series of interviews for commission into the armed forces.
The success rate among the SSB applicants from Bengal reportedly is a meagre five per cent. Camp commandant Sunil Minhas put the reason down to “the general culture not being (armed) service-oriented” and “dearth of communication skills”.
“If there are 91,000 cadets in Bengal and Sikkim (the area that the directorate covers), 90 per cent of them cannot speak English. Most are not comfortable in Hindi either. How can they pass the SSB interview?” he wondered.
There are benefits for NCC’s C certificate-holders in recruitment to paramilitary forces like bonus marks or in admission to military academies like exemption from the written Combined Defence Service examination conducted by UPSC. They can appear directly for the SSB interview. Vacancies are also kept in every course at the military academies for NCC cadets.
The directorate also wants to help ex-cadets. “Several placement agencies have approached me saying they would prefer candidates with NCC training. We will collect information about ex-cadets who have not yet settled in a profession and promote them. Their training should not go waste. The government has spent resources on them,” said Major General Srivastava.
To that end, the directorate launched a website on March 13.
A former cadet desirous of help has to log into www.nccdtewbandsikkim.com and find the ex-NCC cadet form in the About Us section. The online form seeks information on his current occupation, interests, preferred job type and location. Picture and resume can also be uploaded.
Websites of other NCC directorates carry information on incentives for cadets. Some are linked to the government’s Employment News portal. But holding hands of former cadets this way is a novel initiative.
“We will send this data bank to placement agencies. This initiative will increase interest in the NCC also,” Srivastava said.
So long, said Camp Subedar-Major Mohinder Singh, the ALC was a centralised one, drawing 16 cadets each from 17 directorates across the country. “This is the first time this is happening at a zonal level. We can accommodate many more of our own cadets now.”
At Fort William, the cadets were trained in group discussion, picture perception and description test, word aptitude test….
At the end of the camp, Nitesh Khaitan, a 20-year-old from Burrabazar said he felt more confident about facing the SSB.
Rik Bhattacharjee is a final-year student at Swami Vivekananda Institute of Science and Technology in Sonarpur. “I want to join the technical branch of the air force,” said the youth.
The youngest cadet at the camp was Sumeet Kumar Singh, 17. The Howrah boy knew he would not be eligible for SSB as he wasn’t a graduate yet. “But I want to try for admission in National Defence Academy. This exposure will surely help me.”