KATHMANDU, Oct 2: Much has been written about low presence of people from the Madhesi community in the Nepal Army (NA), which is frequently bashed publicly, especially by Madhes-based parties, for defying the call for inclusiveness in the new Nepal.
Making NA inclusive was also one of the major points in the deal reached between the Maoists and Madhes-based parties for lining up the latter´s
support behind the current coalition.
But what is the actual number of Madhesis currently serving in the national army? And by extension, is the problem of exclusion in NA as serious as it is made out to be?
When Republica contacted top leaders of Madhes-based parties to learn about their take on the issue, their information was found to be greatly at variance with the real state of representation of Madhesis in NA.
Chairman of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Republican (MPRF-R) J.P. Gupta was taken aback when Republica asked him about Madhesi representation in the army.
“The numerical strength of the army is 93,000, but the presence of Madhesi is just around 800. So how can we call this institution inclusive?” asked Gupta, who has always made it a point to call for more inclusiveness.
He even accused NA of being the most un-inclusive institution in the country.
“It will take more than 20 years to significantly increase the presence of Madhesis in the army if the current reservations policy is continued. Of all the state institutions, the army is the least inclusive,” he argued.
But data from the army suggests otherwise. There are 6,544 personnel of Madhesi origin in the army. “Ours is an inclusive institution, though we have always striven to make it more inclusive still,” said NA Spokesperson Ramindra Chhetri.
So why this discrepancy? It seems the Madhesi leaders are only talking about a battalion called Naya Sabuj Gan, which was formed for Madhesi recruits. This separate battalion, set up like other battalions for specific ethnic groups, currently has 850 personnel.
The argument of Minister for Physical Planning and Works and Terai Madhes Loktantrik Party leader Hridayesh Tripathi, who has been vociferously demanding mass recruitment of Madhesis into the army, also showed poor knowlede of Madhesi representation in NA.
“There are only 854 Madhesi in NA. It is necessary to increase that number to 10,000 to give it a national character,” he said.
Similar was the argument of Upendra Yadav, chairman of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum (MPRF). “The presence of the Madhesis is nominal. It must be 500 to 700,” he said.
NA has four battalions with personnel from specific ethnic groups: Naya Sabuj Battalion for Madhesis, Kali Bahadur Battalion for Gurungs, Purano Gorakh Battalion for Magars and Ripumardan Battalion for Rais.
“Over 90 percent of personnel in these battalions are from the respective ethnic groups. These ethic groups also have representation at headquarters, and in different battalions, companies and other units,” said NA Spokesperson Chhetri.
Rameshowor Raya Yadav, Senior Vice-chairman of Madhesi People´s Rights Forum-Democratic (MPRF-D), argued that the Madhesis are in technical positions and should not be counted as soldiers.
But the total numerical strength of the army, which is 92,753, includes both technical and regular personal.
According to data, of the 6,544 Madhesi personnel, 6,142 serve as regular soldiers, 127 as technicians and 275 as recruits.
Of 36 Madhesis serving at officer level, one is a brigadier general, two are colonels, two lieutenant colonels, seven majors, two acting majors, eight captains, four acting captains, nine lieutenants and one second lieutenant.
After the government introduced an inclusion policy through the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, NA has recruited 1,758 personnel.
As per the new policy, 55 percent were recruited under free competition, and 45 were allocated for inclusion quotas.
Under the inclusion quotas, 32 percent are allocated for various ethnicities, 28 percent for Madhesis, 20 percent for women, 15 percent for Dalits and the remaining 5 percent for backward groups.
During the fist phase of recruitment in April 19, 2010 after introduction of the quota system, 898 were recruited into NA: 289 females, 385 from various ethnic groups, 84 Madhesis, 120 Dalits and 20 from backward regions.
Similarly, under the second phase, the total number of vacancies announced under the Madhesi quota in various categories was 438. The total number of applicants was 1,136 and of these, 73 managed to pass the exams, according to data from the Directorate of Public Relations
Army officials argue that the number of applicants under the reserved quota is very low and the applicants also fail to qualify.
They argue that it would take another five decades to bring the number of Madhesis in the army to 10,000, given the low numbers of applicants and candidates who qualify.from Republica