This article is written by Saswata Tewari from the University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun. This article discusses the details of the recent army recruitment scam and other previous reported army recruitment scams.
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With a strength of 1.4 million, the Indian army is ranked 4 of the 140 countries in the world as per the Global Firepower Review. Indian army has always taken pride in defeating their enemies and defending their stands, be it in the wars of 1965 or 1999. It has always ruled out threats to protect our country and made our homeland a peaceful haven for all the Indians.
But even the strongest doors turn into ashes when something starts to corrode it from inside. Indian army’s image and reputation have been taken a beating over the years as several scams linked with our army have been reported over time. In March 2020, at least 10 villages of Rajasthan were involved in defrauding buyers on OLX claiming to be army officers. If you think that this is extreme, you will be surprised to know that this is just the tip of the iceberg!
What would you think if I tell you that there are scams involving active-duty army officers? This article would go into the specifics of this scam that involved not only army personnel, but also their family members and civilians. The scam involved fraudulently passing candidates through the last stage of the army recruitment process, that is the medical examination which included a 1.6 km under 6 minutes, pull-ups, and clearing a 9- feet ditch and this is followed by a written exam.
Details of the scam
The Army recruitment scam case was registered on March 13 because of a complaint filed by an Army officer named Brigadier V. K. Purohit.
What was the scam?
The army conducted an internal probe which showed that in December 2020, at least two candidates have corruptly made their selection into the army offices. Out of the two candidates, one had got selected into the prestigious Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai, and the other one cleared the Service Selection Board (SSB) of the National Defence Academy (NDA).
Not only this but it was also reported that a Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) was able to become an officer in the Grenadiers Regiment, after paying the key accused, a Lieutenant Colonel rank officer, close to Rs 10 lakh.
Why was the probe ordered?
The probe was ordered because an input was received on 28th February 2021 which stated that some Army personnel were allegedly receiving bribes for clearing medical examinations of the temporarily rejected officer candidates at the base hospital situated in New Delhi.
How did the CBI get involved?
The Army primarily did an internal investigation which led to the discovery that there were many individuals involved in this particular scam, which included serving officers and their family members. They discovered serious irregularities in the Punjab selection center that administers the Services Selection Boards (SSB) tests for officer-level entry into army offices.
Suspecting that the scale of the accused can be much higher than anticipated, the Army chief agreed to give over the case to the Central Bureau of Investigation (“CBI”) for a thorough investigation and to make sure that this case becomes an example for the army men in future.
Based on this directive, the Army Headquarters’ Additional Directorate General, Discipline & Vigilance, Adjutant General’s Branch, wrote to the CBI on March 13 with full details of the suspected scam. According to the officer, the case ‘involves a larger network of military members and civilians.’
Action taken by CBI
The CBI conducted raids at 30 places across India in connection with this army recruitment scam case. These locations include places like:
- Base Hospital
- Other Army establishments and civilian areas covering Kapurthala, Bathinda, Delhi, Kaithal, Palwal, Lucknow, Bareilly, Gorakhpur, Visakhapatnam, Jaipur, Guwahati, Jorhat, and Chirangon
CBI also filed an FIR and booked 23 individuals which involved 17 Army officers concerning the case involving charges of bribery and irregularities in the Service Selection Board’s recruitment process. The individuals who were booked by the CBI involved:
- Six Lieutenant Colonels
- Two Majors
- A major’s parents and wife
- Other officers including personnel from the ranks of Naib Subedars, Havildars and Sepoys
Among all the 23 booked people, 6 were civilians. Some incriminating documents were also recovered by CBI during the raids.
The FIR filed by the CBI stated that Naib Subedar Kuldeep Singh of the Delhi Cantonment’s Base Hospital acted as the middleman. He allegedly sought the assistance of Lt. Col MVSNA Bhagwan of the Army Air Defence Corps.
Not only this, but the accused had also received a bribe from Havildar Pawan Kumar of the cleared the Service Selection Boards at the National Defence Academy DeArmy Service Corps Centre, Bengaluru, for the admission of his son, Neeraj Kumar, in December 2020.
Lt. Col. Bhagwan was accused to be the mastermind of this whole scam. Apart from this, the FIR alleged that Major Bhavesh Kumar who was the Group Testing Officer posted at Kapurthala had also received a bribe in exchange for the selection of 10/11 candidates. His father Surendra Kumar, his mother Usha Kamavat, and his wife named Devyani had also been mentioned in the FIR.
Lt. Col. Surendra Singh of the 31 SSB, Service Selection Centre (North), Kapurthala, has been alleged to receive bribes in exchange for the selection of 10/11 candidates. It was reported that he had received rupees one lakh for the selection of Neeraj Kumar. Bhupender Bajaj, the Army officer’s brother-in-law, has been named as a co-accused and it is alleged that Bhupender handled the cash transactions for Lt. Col Surendra Singh’s bribes.
The FIR also framed the following individuals:
- Lt. Col. Y.S. Chauhan of the 6 Mountain Division Ordnance Unit, Bareilly
- Lt. Col. Sukhdev Arora, Joint Director of the Directorate General Recruiting in Delhi
- Lt. Col. Vinay of the Selection Centre (South), Bengaluru
- Lieutenant Navjot Singh Kanwar of the 12 Grenadiers, Assam
Furthermore, Lieutenant Navjot Singh Kanwar is accused of bribing Lt. Col. Bhagwan and Naib Subedar Singh to ensure his selection. Lieutenant Kanwar had fraudulently cleared the SSB for SL (Special List) Commission which is a way for NCOs to become officers. According to the FIR, Naib Subedar and another accused, Pragati Singh, received a total of ten lakh rupees.
Hemant Dagar and Inderjeet, two cadets, have been accused of bribing Major Kumar for their selection. The following army personnel was also named in the case:
- Havildar Pawan Kumar of the Army Service Corps Centre in Bengaluru
- Major Amit Fagna of the Field Hospital in Delhi Cantonment
- Naik Parwinder Jeet Singh of the Medical Board Section at Base Hospital
- Sepoys Kuldeep Singh and Rohit Kanwar
- Havildars Rajesh Kumar and Harpal Singh
The army recruitment scam was basically about clearing temporarily rejected candidates of the army by fraudulently passing them in the medical review. Havildar Rajesh Kumar, who was one of the accused army personnel, belonging to the Independent Recruitment Organisation, Delhi Cantonment, used to compile a full list of all such rejected candidates and leaked the merit list ahead of time.
The payments for such transactions are presumed to be made either through cash payments or by UPI transactions made to the family members of the accused which included their parents. Money trails of over fifty lakh rupees have been traced via civilian bank accounts, but the cash received by the personnel is listed as undisclosed in the FIR.
Military intelligence was able to track down such UPI transactions and videos showing the exchange of packages were also recovered. Not only this, as per the FIR filed by the CBI it is alleged that Major Bhavesh Kumar received bribes for 10 to 11 candidates whereas Lt. Col Surender Singh had received a bribe in exchange for the selection of 10 to 15 candidates.
Previous cases of army recruitment scams
There were several cases in the past where recruitment scams were made for the selection of personnel in the Indian army. The details of these cases have been listed below:
In 2017, an army doctor named Lieutenant Colonel Dr. Jagjit Puri, posted in Jodhpur, was arrested for helping students fraudulently passing their medical examination.
A tip-off was made from the military intelligence which resulted in the arrest of the whole gang of touts. The arrested individuals were :
- Arjun Singh
- Nand Singh Rathore
- Sunil Vyas
- Mahendra Singh
During the interrogation of these individuals, the name of Lt. Colonel Puri came up.
The gang used to extort money from students by promising them recruitment in the army. They used to meet these unemployed young students in army recruitment rallies and used to charge them anywhere between 2 to 4 lakh rupees. They used to lure the individuals into their trap by telling them that they had a good connection with Lt. Colonel Puri, who had the final say in the selection of candidates on medical grounds.
It is alleged that the doctor used to be paid rupees 35,000 to 40,000 per candidate and the doctor had even confessed to fraudulently passing two dozen students in the time of one and half years.
In 2016, a retired army colonel, named Sukhpritsingh Arjunsingh Randhawa had been arrested as he was linked to being the mastermind of a bogus recruitment racket that provided fake documents to aid aspirants into getting admission into the Nashik Artillery Centre.
A new battalion was to be made in the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh and as per the government’s decision, the selection of candidates for the battalion would be entirely made of the candidates who belonged to Telangana’s 10 districts.
The scam was exposed when applicants belonging to the Srikakulam district of the north coastal Andhra Pradesh came across other candidates who belonged to states such as Rajasthan and Haryana.
70 people were arrested on the charge of cheating and rioting and it was alleged that the scam involved local bureaucrats and other army officers. Fake residency certificates were sold to imposter candidates for thousands of rupees and it was believed by the police that this involved two army officers and some applicants even confessed to buying the certificates from retired army personnel.
In 2009, a major gang was arrested in Ajmer by the local police with the help of military intelligence, who used to recruit candidates through money and not through merit.
It was reported that six army officers from Rajasthan were also involved in this scam and the arrested gang had been working for a long time all over the state. The arrested individuals have confessed of taking Rs. 1.5 lakhs per candidate in exchange for their selection.
A country’s defense mechanism is a very sensitive issue that must be carefully handled and monitored in order to maintain the country’s peacekeeping. Wrongdoers have no idea about the adverse results that can take place resulting from their scams. They can get rich but at what cost? It will not be long before the militants and terrorists realize that these scams as loopholes to get into our defense system and will bring havoc and chaos all over the country.
Not only this, as of these scams qualified candidates will slowly start losing their faith in the selection of army personnel and since money will take precedence over merit, the Indian army will be filled with incompetent candidates, causing India to suffer.
Strict actions need to be taken against the wrongdoers to set examples for others so that such immoral acts don’t happen again. Heavy fines along with a considerable jail time would suffice as the rightful justice for such crimes. There should be zero tolerance for such corruption practices in the recruitment process for selecting suitable candidates for our army. Choosing the right person is imperative for safeguarding the peaceful state of our country.
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