There was a
time when a majority of the NDA cadets came from the sainik
schools but now these schools are losing out to the lure of the
private sector. Ajay Banerjee finds
out the reasons
The Sainik School at Kapurthala last won the Defence Minister’s trophy for sending in the most number students to NDA in one year some 20 years ago in 1988
— Photos Pawan Sharma
the 1960s the Government of India set up various sainik
schools across the country. These schools were to serve as
training centres for youth for entry into the armed forces. The
decades of sixties and seventies were turbulent times. The
nation had faced two wars. Carried away by the feeling of
patriotism, people, especially those belonging to the armed
forces, were vying with one another to send their wards to these
Over the years,
patriotism has given way to pragmatism. Defence services is just
another career option and not a very sought after one, going by
the shortage of men in the forces.
profile of students in these schools, too, has changed as now
children from upper class and the upper middle class backgrounds
no more turn up for admissions. The infrastructure in the 22
sainik schools, too, needs updating with changing times.
In the Sainik School, Kunjpura, in Haryana, the numbers are not dropping but the significant shift there is that children of more and more civilian families are coming forward to join the school, says its Pricipal, Col Arun Datta
— Photo Ravi Kumar
facing many problems, these institutions are doing very well and
continue to do the task they were mandated to perform – to be
a nursery for boys, who aim to join the National Defence Academy
(NDA), Kharagvasla. The students here are taught communication
skills, games and IT skills. Additionally, the schools also
provide training to their wards to take the Services Selection
Board (SSB) examination.
cent of 595 NDA cadets in the present term of 2008 are from the
sainik schools across the country. The numbers have steadily
improved in the past. Just five years ago, in 2004, only 20 per
cent of the NDA cadets were from the sainik schools. This had
sent alarm bells ringing across the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
are only for the NDA and do not include the boys, who join the
armed forces through the technical entry scheme or through the
Indian Military Academy, the Officers’ Training Academy, the
Naval Academy and the Air Force Academy.
being the training centre for the NDA, the sainik schools
continue to provide good education that is affordable. A large
number of students secured first division in the Classes X and
XII examinations last year. Almost all (99.87 per cent) students
of Class X passed out with a first division while in Class XII,
92.05 per cent of the students achieved the same feat, according
to data collated by the MoD. These numbers have been achieved
through a steady progress as earlier the picture was not so
are affiliated to the All-India Central Board of Secondary
Education (CBSE). For Class XII, they offer only the science
To maintain the
standards, a decision has been taken to post only Colonel rank
or its equivalents from the education branch as Principals of
these schools. For the teaching and administrative staff there
are many training programmes and workshops.
professional bodies like the National University of Educational
Planning and Administration (NUEPA) and the National Council of
Educational Research and Training (NCERT) have been roped in for
these workshops. In 2007, two teachers, one each from Sainik
School, Rewa and Sainik School, Satara, were conferred the
National Teacher’s Award.
now wants to open more such schools. An ‘in-principle’
approval has been accorded for opening of new sainik schools in
Mizoram, Sikkim and Chhattisgarh, while the foundation stone of
a second school in Haryana was laid a few weeks ago at Rewari.
region already has four sainik schools – at Kapurthala in
Punjab, at Kunjpura in Haryana, at Nagrota in Jammu and Kashmir
and at Sujanpur Tihra in Himachal Pradesh.
Andhra Pradesh have also demanded a second sainik school in
their respective states. There are also proposals under
consideration for opening of a second sainik school each in
A major problem
in these institutions concerns infrastructure. Almost all
existing schools were started 40 years ago. The financial
support, provided by the respective state governments to these
schools, has not been consistent. As a result the infrastructure
in many schools has been declining.
But help is on
the way. The Central Government has sanctioned Rs 44 crore in
the union Budget last year. This will provide Rs 2 crore to each
school towards infrastructure improvement.
separate from the Central Government assistance these sainik
schools are already getting.
problem these institutions face is that the entire capital
expenditure on land, building, furniture and educational
equipment required by them and a major portion of the running
expenditure is borne by the state governments concerned. The
state governments are also responsible for maintenance of the
school building, roads and installations and for major
replacements. They are also required to release grants-in-aid,
sought for additional needs like building expansion, furniture,
transport, laboratory equipment, etc. Since the state
governments mostly have limited funds and these schools are not
a priority sector for them.
The Ministry of
Defence has formulated a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA), which
clearly defines the responsibilities of the major stakeholders
in the running of sainik schools. So far, only three states,
Bihar, Jharkhand and Karnataka, have signed the MoA, the MoD
informed Parliament on December 15 last year.
The MoD says
signing the MoA is an essential requirement for sustaining these
unique institutions on a long-term basis. However, the role and
responsibility of the state governments managing the schools
will not be diluted, it clarified.
change these sainik schools are facing is an altering of
demographic profile of students and a change in attitude of
people towards sending their wards to the forces. The Principal
of Sainik School, Kapurthala, Col (Dr) A.K. Tyagi, says,
"There are many reasons behind this trend. The private
sector companies, major corporate houses and the MNCs offer
better salary packages than the defence forces."
behind this slump, according to Colonel Tyagi, is the emerging
interest of the students towards the IT sector, medical and
engineering services. "A majority of brilliant students
prefer opting for the various engineering and medical entrance
exams like IIT, AIEEE, AIT Pune, and want to try other careers.
They are quite aware of the new openings and expansions in these
sectors and hence there is a decline in the number of the
students from the sainik schools finally joining the defence
Lakhwinder Singh (retd) says, "A majority of the students
these days prefer going abroad and working in the private
sector, which pays double the wages, instead of joining armed
the Principal of Sainik School, Nagrota, Group Captain Ajay
Kumar, the children who join this school mostly belong to the
‘not-so-affluent strata’ of the society. Their parents want
them to get quality education at economical cost so the sainik
schools have become their favourite destination.
But despite the
drawbacks, these schools are soldiering on. It is high time the
government (both Central and state) and the society recognised
the yeoman service that these schools have been providing to our
(With inputs from Bhanu Lohumi,
Tejinder Singh Sodhi, Kusum Arora and Dharam Prakash Gupta)
The Sainik School at Nagrota in J&K on an average sends only eight or nine cadets every year to the NDA
— Photo Anand Sharma
with a harsh reality that a very less number of
boys from North India are clearing the National Defence
Academy (NDA) entrance examinations in the past few years,
states like Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and
Kashmir and Delhi need to focus on their sainik schools so
as to attract more and more students.
The role of
these schools is unique as they allow their wards to
develop qualities that are needed to be an officer. The
Pune-based NDA trains youths to become officers in the
Army, the Air force and the Navy. The entry is through a
countrywide exam. The setting up of various sainik schools
all across the country was aimed at removing the regional
governments are allowed to provide 67 per cent reservation
in sainik schools for the boys belonging to that
Bajwa (retd), who studied at Sainik School Kapurthala,
recollects, "The school helped us develop qualities
of discipline of mind body and character".
Indian states need to act fast, says a serving officer.
Youth from Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, J&K and
Chandigarh are slowly being out-competed and the intake
from these states into the NDA had been on the decline.
Only in case
of Haryana the intake is somewhat static. In case of
Punjab the intake has been reduced to single-digit number.
Just a decade ago about 30 youth from Punjab cleared the
NDA entrance, conducted every six months. In the last
three batches of the NDA there is no cadet from
Chandigarh, while Delhi had eight boys in the last batch.
Just a decade ago Delhi’s average was more than 20
cadets for each batch.
In case of
Himachal Pradesh the intake has only marginally picked up
but it is still on a downslide from a decade ago when the
state provided a constant stream of young officers.
is visible, the Sainik School at Kapurthala last won the
Defence Minister’s trophy for sending in the most number
students to NDA in one year some 20 years ago in 1988. The
Sainik School at Sujanpur Tihra, Himachal Pradesh, won
that trophy some 10 years ago in 1998. The Sainik School
at Nagrota in J&K on an average sends only eight to
nine cadets every year to the NDA.
Sainik School Kunjpura in Haryana, which boasts of having
the present Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor and Chief
Minister Bhupendra Hooda as its students, the numbers are
not dropping here but a significant shift is that children
of more and more civilian families are coming forward to
join. — AB
(With inputs from BL,
TS, KA and DPG)