In The Trenches

How the Agnipath scheme has muddled Gurkha recruitment in the Indian Army

30 June 2023
Men train at the Bright Gurkha Training Centre, in Nepal’s Kathmandu, on 23 June 2023. Until the Agnipath scheme was implemented, Gurkhas from Nepal were recruited by the Indian Army under the 1947 tripartite agreement between India, Nepal and the United Kingdom.
PRAKASH CHANDRA for The Caravan
Men train at the Bright Gurkha Training Centre, in Nepal’s Kathmandu, on 23 June 2023. Until the Agnipath scheme was implemented, Gurkhas from Nepal were recruited by the Indian Army under the 1947 tripartite agreement between India, Nepal and the United Kingdom.
PRAKASH CHANDRA for The Caravan

ON A COLD MORNING in November 2022, Krishna Bahadur Sunuwar and his family stood in the courtyard of their house in Majuwa, a small settlement in the Nepalese town of Ramechhap. The family bid tearful goodbyes, as Sunuwar’s son Maniram headed to Kathmandu to join a coaching centre, where he would undergo training in the hopes of joining either the British Army, the Indian Army or the Singapore Police. Sunuwar himself had spent the past decade working in Kuwait, Malaysia and Qatar. Due to perpetual unemployment in the country, people such as Sunuwar are left with no option but to work abroad. According to the Nepal government’s statistics, Sunuwar represents approximately 4.7 million Nepalese who are permitted to work abroad. Their remittances amounted to a fifth of Nepal’s GDP in 2021. 

At the Bright Gurkha Training Center, where Maniram was enrolled, there were about thirty young men in his batch. The centre, located in the Koteshwor area, is in a rented house on the banks of the Manohara River, which cuts through the middle of the Kathmandu Valley. Every year, around thirty thousand youth take admission in such training centres. The annual fees can range from fifty thousand to 2 lakh Nepalese rupees. Maniram told me that his training starts at 5 am every day and that, later in the day, he works in a sekuwa corner—small pubs where roasted meat is served—to earn money to pay for his course. 

The Bright Gurkha Training Centre, in Kathmandu’s Koteshwor area, in Nepal, on 23 June 2023. Several such coaching centres dot the cities and towns of Nepal, and do brisk business, with upwards of thirty thousand enrollees every year. The men train for recruitment in the Indian and British Army, and Singapore Police.  . PRAKASH CHANDRA for The Caravan The Bright Gurkha Training Centre, in Kathmandu’s Koteshwor area, in Nepal, on 23 June 2023. Several such coaching centres dot the cities and towns of Nepal, and do brisk business, with upwards of thirty thousand enrollees every year. The men train for recruitment in the Indian and British Army, and Singapore Police.  . PRAKASH CHANDRA for The Caravan
The Bright Gurkha Training Centre, in Kathmandu’s Koteshwor area, in Nepal, on 23 June 2023. Several such coaching centres dot the cities and towns of Nepal, and do brisk business, with upwards of thirty thousand enrollees every year. The men train for recruitment in the Indian and British Army, and Singapore Police.
PRAKASH CHANDRA for The Caravan

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    Naresh Gyawali is a Kathmandu-based freelance journalist. He is the editor of the Pragatiwadi Nepali Sahitya Visheshank, and has recently translated Arundhati Roy's The Doctor and the Saint into Nepali.

    Keywords: Agnipath scheme Nepal
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