When Colonel Ajay Kothiyal is not busy heading India’s premier mountaineering institute – Nehru Institute of Mountaineering –as its Principal in Uttarakhand, or winning multiple gallantry awards, he spends his time coaching youth from nearby villages for various positions in the army and police.
According to reports, of the 1800 youth he has trained, around 1400 have been selected by the Indian army. So how does this colonel prepare enthusiastic men/women for the toughest jobs of their lives?
Col. Kothiyal, who was born and brought up in Uttarakhand, observed that many young people were eager and skilled to join the army but lacked training. Since he was a familiar face among the villagers, they approached him and asked whether he could recruit their children in the army. He assured them that he would train them for the recruitment process, which includes a physical fitness test and a written test.
In 2013, he sought the help of an instructor to train 30 youths, of which 28 were recruited in Garhwal Rifles, one of the most decorated infantry regiments of the Indian army.
The success of this first bunch testified to the quality of training he provided. After news of this success spread, numerous youngsters approached him to seek training.
He told The Indian Express,“I saw tremendous potential and zeal among the youngsters who wanted to serve the nation. Unfortunately, they were not aware of various recruitments conducted in army and police. So, we thought of getting them acquainted with the life and responsibilities of an Indian soldier.”
In order to make sure that his training program could reach out to a large number of people, Col. Kothiyal started a non-profit trust called Youth Foundation in 2015, which functions out of six camps across various districts in Uttarakhand. Initially, Col. Kothiyal, who has also climbed Mount Everest twice, funded all six camps but the expenditure is now being backed by some reputed trusts as well.
The training camps see female participants every year, and around 328 girls were enrolled in the camps this year.
Apart from the daily drill and preparations for written exams, the students are also encouraged to help out people in nearby villages. The instructors, some of whom are retired army personnel, feel that such tasks help in team building and making the trainees more socially aware.
Suraj Negi, who is in charge of the Youth Foundation, told The Indian Express, “We make them do constructive activities that help them build their stamina and team spirit. Like, an old woman’s farm was devastated due to cloud burst. She had no support. We sent 100 boys to re-build the farm. She was so flattered that she cooked steaming rice for all of them,”
Uttarakhand has recently seen many natural disasters, like cloudbursts, which have wrecked havoc in the state and affected household incomes. Suraj feels the camps would help boost the economy of the state because the recruits, once they’ve joined the army, will send savings to their families back at home.
To know more about his commendable work of the Youth Foundation, click here.