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Religious teachers to offer jawans spiritual succor

india Updated: Nov 09, 2006 14:44 IST

IT SEEMS the Indian Army is looking for a spiritual rejuvenation. It has invited applications for 72 vacancies for the posts of 55 pundits, 13 Sikh granthis and four Christian priests as Junior Commission Officers (JCOs).

The last date for submitting applications is November 11. The applicants will have to face a physical fitness and written test and interview on January 11, 2007 in Jabalpur.

On qualifying the tests, they will be given a 10-week training in regimental rituals and a six-week religious training at the Army’s Institute of National Integration (INI) in Pune.

The appointments are a regular feature. Last year, a total of 28 vacant posts had been filled through a similar recruitment process.

Army Recruiting Office (ARO), Mhow director Col V K Saini told Hindustan Times that religious teachers are appointed to meet the religious and spiritual needs of the soldiers and officers during peacetime and for motivating them during wartime. The knowledge of religion is patterned to suit the requirements of the armed forces through these teachers.

“Their role is very important in the context of changing aspirations and demands and specially when there are growing reports of suicides and killings in the Army,” he said.

The religious teachers’ duties include advising commanding officers on the welfare of soldiers, interacting with soldiers serving sentence in military prisons, meeting patients in military hospitals, offering informal counselling concerning soldiers’ domestic problems among others. Their duties also involve weaning heavy drinkers off their bad habit and bringing habitual offenders to the right path.                        

Each battalion and military establishment has a religious teacher and recruitments are made against retirements every alternate year.

Caste is no bar for applying. The candidates should be graduates and should be between 27 and 34 years of age. For the posts of pundits and granthis, the candidates should be BA with Sanskrit or Punjabi respectively as elective subjects or they should have the Sanskrit ‘Madhyama’ from Benaras Hindu University. For Christian priests, the candidates should have been ordained by the church.

Anybody can become a pundit, granthi or a priest, though there has not been any instance of any candidate professing a particular religion and applying for religious teacher’s post of other religion barring one instance in Mahar Regiment where a Rajput became a Buddhist monk some time back, says Col Saini.