Madhavaram, Andhra Pradesh’s army-loving village has around 320 men presently serving and around 1,800 ex-servicemen.

A collage of a man hanging from a pull up bar with the war memorial in the background
news Ground Report Friday, July 01, 2022 - 14:04

Every morning, when the clock strikes 5:30, 22-year-old D Sai Ram and his friends, all army aspirants, gather to go for their daily run. There are four such groups that head in different directions in Madhavaram, a quaint village in Andhra Pradesh’s West Godavari district. Though they are disappointed, confused, and have their own apprehensions about the military’s Agnipath scheme, it hasn’t deterred them from continuing their efforts to prepare for army recruitment. Many among them have been waiting for nearly three years now, for the army to begin recruitment.

Sai Ram and his friends, all army aspirants, out for their daily run in Madhavaram

At the entrance to Madhavaram, the first thing one would notice is a massive statue of a standing Hanuman, a Hindu god known for his devotion, courage, strength, and discipline. The larger-than-life-size statue probably explains the qualities that the people in Madhavaram most relate to. Madhavaram, popularly known as Military Madhavaram shot to fame around five years ago, when the media extensively featured the village for having at least one army personnel in every other family in the village, presently serving or retired from the army.

In Madhavaram, you cannot miss noticing men with toned bodies, broad chests and thick moustaches. These men are mostly those who are back in Madhavaram on leave or those who have returned after a stint in the army. According to Madhavaram’s ex-servicemen’s association, the village which has a population of around 6,500 has nearly 320 people serving in the army at present. Around 1,800 men have retired after having served in the army and have settled in different places and not just in Madhavaram.

While protests broke out in several states including vandalism at the Secunderabad railway station against the Agnipath scheme, not a single person from Madhavaram was involved in the violence. Despite having such a large number of people in the army and many youths aspiring to join the army, one could wonder how no one protested. While the disappointment over the new scheme is palpable and ambiguity and apprehensions exist, it still hasn’t diluted the spirit of the people of the village to serve in the army.

Zilla Parishad High School, Madhavaram

Two 15-year-olds, Pathan Hussain and CH Prasad study at Zilla Parishad High School in Madhavaram. They go running every morning for nearly 5 kms and hope to stay physically fit to make it to the army someday. Though they weren’t aware of the nitty-gritty details of the new recruitment scheme, they said it would be nice if they could stay back in the army and not have to return. Both the boys are known among their friends for putting up photos of guns, men in uniform, and other army-related images on their WhatsApp display images and statuses every day.

Pathan Hussain, CH Prasad and their friends at the Madhavaram Zilla Parishad High School 

Apprehensions, ambiguity, and disappointment

Every morning around 5:30, the straight road from Madhavaram to Nidadavole, a town in East Godavari is filled with army aspirants. Dozens of them can be found running and exercising on this route. Right from a young age, they begin preparations for physical fitness required to be selected for the army. Speaking to TNM, Sai Ram, an army aspirant said there is disappointment among the aspirants. “We were disappointed about the new scheme. Moreover, we have been waiting for the recruitment for the last three years. While our only aim is to make it to the army, the new scheme has left many disappointed,” Sai said.

When asked why no one from Madhavaram participated in the protests, Sai said they were strictly warned by elders not to participate in the protests. L Nageshwar Rao, a retired Havildar in the army, told TNM, “There was disappointment among the aspirants. The association’s heads circulated messages on WhatsApp directing them not to partake in any protests. Members of the ex-servicemen association counselled the aspirants. We believe in discipline. How will vandalising government property prove any point or offer a solution? We asked the aspirants from Madhavaram to stay away and continue their preparation for the recruitments.”

Prathi Krishna, who retired as Naik Subedar in 1994, feels four years of service under the new scheme is too less to even properly train army personnel. “It takes nearly 8-10 years for a person to get used to the landscape and the training imparted. Men with just four years of training can’t do anything in conflict zones,” said the 73-year-old, who joined the Army in 1969.

P Surya Narayana, another ex-serviceman feels the new scheme will leave many people without a job once they return from service if they don’t make it to the top. “I retired from the army after 24 years of service. Despite being so experienced, I did not find a job after my retirement from the service. If army personnel as experienced as us did not find jobs, how will those who return after four years find any suitable jobs?” said P Surya Narayana, who retired as Havildar.

“Even after five years of service, we were treated as juniors. It is not possible to train personnel the best way in this short span. Only if the men at the borders are capable and efficient can people live peacefully in the country,” the former Havildar added. The ex-servicemen remember the times, when all those who were physically fit would be recruited into the army, straight out of school. The army would then impart training as well as educate all those who were selected

Naik Subedar (retd) Prathi Krishna, Havildar (retd) L Nageshwar Rao and Havildar (retd) P Surya Narayana 

TNM also spoke to a commissioned officer, presently serving in the army who was in Madhavaram on leave. He felt the new scheme would work for the government in reducing the financial burden on the government. “The new scheme will prove beneficial for the government as they wouldn’t have to provide pension and medical facilities to all personnel. The army is moving towards technology and the dependence is now more on technology than manpower. The scheme may leave the aspirants disappointed, because if they have to return after four years they may be left in the lurch, with no adequate education and they would also be too old to go back and complete studies.”

However, according to retired Havildar L Nageshwar Rao, Military Madhavaram’s men have no reason to worry. “The men from Madhavaram will surely go on to become Agniveers. There is an undying passion and commitment to the job. They are dedicated and have the aggressiveness required. I’m confident that all those from Madhavaram will go on to become Agniveers,” he said.

According to the retired Havildar, in Madhavaram, a soldier has as much demand as an engineer. “There is a belief that soldiers are daring, responsible, and can be trusted. An engineer might save up a crore, but that’s all that he has. A soldier not only has his savings, but also has several other benefits to offer. We always prefer to get our daughters married to a soldier.”

The War memorial at Madhavaram  

Speaking about Madhavaram’s love for the army, Naib Subedar Prathi Krishna, the senior-most member of the ex-servicemen association explained, “We went to the army in the 60s. Whenever we saw our elders return to Madhavaram during their leaves, they would be dressed in uniform. They looked handsome and were comfortably settled in their professions. They had impressive confidence on their face and were always physically fit. This inspired a lot of us to dream about getting into the army.”

While Madhavaram continues to have a sizable number of men serving in the army, how the new recruitment scheme will impact the numbers in the near future remains to be seen. While there are teenagers like Hussain and Prasad who dream to be in the Army, will they be able to go on to become Agniveers will remain the big question. Despite the disappointment and apprehensions, clearly, Military Madhavaram’s obsession and love for the Army still remains.    

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