Now, A ‘Private’ Sainik School Linked To RSS?Jan 27, 2023 | Shalini Rai
Recently, news has come in that a ‘most modern’ private Sainik School will be opened in Madhya Pradesh by Vidya Bharati, an organisation affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The private Sainik School was reported to be opened in 2025, a year that will mark the completion of 100 years of the establishment of the RSS.
This news is deeply concerning as there already exist 33 Sainik Schools in the country (as of 2021), which are established and managed by the Sainik Schools Society under the Ministry of Defence (MoD). These schools were conceived in 1961 by V. K. Krishna Menon, the then Defence Minister of India, to rectify the regional and class imbalance amongst the officer cadre of the Indian military, and to prepare students mentally and physically for entry into the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the Indian Naval Academy (INA).
Along with the Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and 5 RMS (Rashtriya Military Schools), Sainik Schools contribute 25-30% officer cadets to the NDA and INA. The MoD runs Sainik Schools as a joint venture with the respective state governments. It provides annual funding, and appoints serving officers in key roles such as Principal. State governments provide the land, infrastructure, and other teaching and administrative employees.
Now, with the proposed ‘private’ Sainik School, the very ethos of these iconic institutions, which contribute such a large portion of military officers will come into question. One glaring query is what is the rationale behind such a move. Are there any gaps in the selection and training of students at these schools which has necessitated it? If there aren’t, then what is the need to upset the apple-cart and get Vidya Bharti involved?
It is noteworthy that as part of their curriculum, Sainik Schools follow the “CBSE Plus”. It involves using the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) curriculum while additionally aiming to prepare children for entry into NDA and INA. Admission to Sainik Schools is granted from Class 6, which is such an impressionable age. The Sainik School reservation policy caters for SC/ST, domicile of the respective states and wards of armed forces employees and ex-servicemen.
Touted as the country’s most modern private Sainik School, the one in Madhya Pradesh is proposed to be built in Bagwada village in Budhni, the assembly constituency of MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. As per initial details, the school would be spread over about 50 acres, of which 40 acres has already been acquired by Vidya Bharati.
Newspaper reports say that this Sainik school will be unique due to the integration of modern standards and ancient Indian military heritage. A large meeting of Vidya Bharti is scheduled to be held soon in Bhopal to prepare the master plan of this school. According to the Daily Pioneer, in this meeting, the school’s architecture and resource allocation will be discussed. The report further states that in order to prepare the master plan of this private Sainik School, a study is being conducted involving Nashik’s Bhonsala Military School and other major government military schools.
Brainstorming is also underway about how big the size of the Vidya Bharti ‘Sanstha’ will be and how much it can be expanded in the future. There are also plans to raise funds for the expenses on its construction from civil society.
All this is deeply alarming and bound to raise the hackles of the secularists among common Indians who will question the necessity of getting an RSS-affiliated institute involved in setting up a private Sainik School. Questions will also be raised on the timing of this move, with the 2024 General Elections just a little over a year away.
Given the record and motivation of the uber-nationalist, right-wing RSS and the involvement of its affiliate Vidya Bharati in such a sensitive field as the grooming of young armed forces aspirants, this bit of news is likely to give rise to several conjectures, almost all of them primarily being alarmist.
If this private military school does finally open, it will set a precedent for other such schools in the country and provide a template for right-wingers to interfere viscerally in training and readying young, impressionable kids for the Indian armed forces.
Since the current character of our military, starting from the early, just-commissioned stages going up into higher ranks, is deeply-inclusive and overwhelmingly secular, any effort to set up a private Sainik School by an organisation affiliated to the RSS should be very carefully-watched and if possible, nipped in the bud.