The Other Face of Army

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Hidden from the limelight, a small training centre run by Army in Uri trains local youth in various hospitality sector jobs and helps them in realizing their long standing dreams of making it big in the competitive world. Sameer Yasir reports.

Imtiyaz Ahmed Mughal travels 30 Km every day from Kamalkote village to reach Hunar Se Rozgar Centre in Bandi -- Photo: Ashiq Mir

Imtiyaz Ahmed Mughal travels 30 Km every day from Kamalkote village to reach Hunar Se Rozgar Centre in Bandi — Photo: Ashiq Mir

Every morning, Imtiyaz Ahmad Maghul, a short lean boy with a round face, starts his journey on foot from Kamalkote to reach Bandi, almost 30 km from his village in north Kashmir’s Uri region, where he is undergoing training to become a food processing specialist. Ahmad’s father, Ghulam Muhammad Maghul, works as a laborer in Kamalkote village. Whenever Ahmad, who is in his twenties, walks down the bumpy and hilly tracks of Kamalkote, he says he dreams about the day when he would be hired by a five star hotel.

“Now,” he says, “the time is not far when my family will be out of poverty.” The first thing Ahmad does after reaching a white-washed, two-storied building on the banks of Jehlum in Bandi, is to don a white uniform with maroon buttons. “When I wear this uniform, I feel proud and different. I don’t know what would be the color of my uniform when I get a job but I would always keep this uniform with me,” he says with a smile on his face.

Many trainees, who are presently undergoing training in Bandi area share Ahmad’s optimism. The initiative by Indian Army, ‘Hunar Se Rozgar – Sena Ke Sahyog Se’ has become a major source of employment for less-educated boys living in remote villages of Uri region. More than 20 boys from Kamalkote are undergoing training in a batch of 180 which is the third batch undergoing training at the center.

Under the scheme, young boys get trained in different skilled work force sectors like hospitality. Indian Army’s Pir Pangal Brigade and Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology, Srinagar (IHMCT) jointly run the program. It has already produced two batches and IHMCT has deployed two experts who teach students at the center in Bandi village.

One of the passouts from the centre working at the Lalit Grand Palace Srinagar

One of the passouts from the centre working at the Lalit Grand Palace Srinagar

Jahangir Nazir, 19, a resident of Pringal, Boniyar, says that after completing his Class 9, he had to leave his studies and start work in a local hotel in Boniyar. “When I heard the Army was running this program, I registered and luckily got through. I am getting trained here for housekeeping. I want to make my career in it. This would have been impossible without the help of Brigadier GS Rawat, commandeer of 161 Brigade who took keen interest in the program.”

Every trainee gets a nominal remuneration during the training period. The trainees in housekeeping service get Rs 1500 while for students in food production, the amount is Rs 2000. A number of programs are run including courses in food production, watering, tourist facilitation, apart from the course in driving, all of which take varied durations for completion.

When the applications were recently invited for the third batch, it saw a huge response from applicants. For 60 seats, more than 300 boys applied. “The response was phenomenal,” says one of the officers of Indian Army who is in-charge of the center in Bandi, adding, “It is primarily because most of the boys who were trained in the first and second batch, got jobs after passing out. So expectations have risen manifold.”

“My friend was trained here in the last batch and he got a job in Khyber Restorts in Gulmarg. He encouraged me to apply for Food and Beverage course. So I came and got through the screening which was conducted by the faculty members of IHMCT and Nishant, HR Manager, Vivanta-The Taj, Srinagar. We were 250 applicants and I got through,” Asif, a trainee in Food and Beverage course, says. “What has our government done for people who have high qualifications? We are not even better qualified. Here we are getting trained for free and even getting money. What better can we expect?,” he adds.

On November 27 last year, Shafaqat Avan’s blue eyes beamed with joy when he got an appointment letter. A resident of Gingal area, Avan takes care of four brothers and four sisters, none of whom could study due to poverty, “When they announced that I had got a job in Caf? Coffee Day, Srinagar, I cried. I had never seen Srinagar before the training. It changed my life forever. We live in a rented accommodation in Srinagar now and I send money to my father. ” Avan was placed with CCD as a service assistant with an initial pay of Rs 5000. His salary was revised to Rs 10,000 after three months.

The first batch from Bandi training school passed on August 24 last year when 54 out of 60 boys were given job letters in a glittering function. Most of these boys were placed in hotels in Srinagar, majority of them in two five-star hotels – Vivanta by Taj and The Lalit. —

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