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Dear Editor,

I think the article The cost of British recruitment on Nepali youth is insightful as social observation and commentary. That, perhaps, is what the writers should have limited it to. By offering recommendations as to what the British Army recruiting should be, they are opening themselves up to criticism (from the British Army Recruiting Directorate, only if that were to happen). The obvious question is, what country’s army recruiting requires a vocational training that is not already within the skill set of its people? After all, we are recruiting people mostly for their physical applications. So, that recommendation wouldn’t work.

The article also doesn’t explain why hill boys no longer make the cut. This change also has a direct implication on how we now view recruiting as a whole.

Over the years the selection process gradually prioritized education over physical attributes as the needs of the Army changed.  This has shaped what class of Nepalis join the British Army. The Army knows that the average Nepalis signing up for it are much fitter than their average British counterparts. In this day and age of asymmetric warfare, what the Army needs is Nepalis who can work seamlessly with their British counterparts in an operational environment.  This discourages hill boys, and encourages people from the middle class who are comparatively well educated (and in Nepal, good English is often used as the benchmark for good education). The British Army is undermanned and faces a recruiting and retention crisis. The Brigade of Gurkhas is fully manned at all times. So, there is a potential benefit if the members of the Brigade are able to step up to those positions. That is where good English helps. Sadly, this also means slim to zero chance for hill boys, who get the short end of the stick due to poor educational resources available to them in the hills.

What does this mean for Nepal then? With the changes in priorities, Nepal is losing a quality workforce now compared to the early years. But we lose most of them to other developed countries anyway. In the past, things were different. The Brigade was much bigger, hence the recruitment numbers were bigger too.  The selection criteria wasn’t as stringent and the failure rate was low. These were mostly hill boys who didn’t have to pause their lives for the selection process in their prime years (18 – 21 years of age). At the end of their service, the hill boys would return home and settle mostly in the hills or remote places.  They could be seen working for the betterment of their communities with their unique exposure, experience and new-earned wealth.  Though one can argue that the hills boys had little to offer, Nepal benefited many times more out of them, from their service in the British Army.

That is no longer the case. As the article points out, today nearly 97% of young Nepalese with arguably better potential than the hill boys of the past languish in uncertainty after their failure to make into the British Army. A lot of lives are put on hold, the majority of which will end up in less than ideal situations. The recent changes in the Terms and Conditions of the Service to allow the Brigade members to settle in the UK means that Nepal loses out even more.  Though this change is a natural progression, and is in no way the fault of the British Army policy, Nepal has still lost out. But as long as Nepal fails to offer a better option for these men, arguments against recruitment won’t hold any weight.

I commend the writers for exploring this topic.

Regards,
Ram Chamling
Military Clerk of Works (Construction)
Bahrain


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