At a time when the anti-Maoist war is in full swing and the Royal Nepal Army, the Armed Police and Nepal Police all need new recruits, the demand for young Nepali boys in foreign armies is also growing. After recruiting hundreds of Nepali youngsters in Ilam and Gaighat over the past six months, officers from the Indian Army are busy measuring the chests of hundreds more Nepalis in Dharan.
To be eligible for the Indian Army they need to be between 16-22 years old, at least 157 cm tall, weighing 50 kg, with a 77 cm chest. They also need to have finished at least class eight.
Col Saradjit Singh of the Indian Army says in fluent Nepali: "We will be taking 250 from the eastern zones Mechi, Kosi, Sagarmatha and Janakpur. We'll first shortlist 500, and pick 250 from that group in Darjeeling. Currently our intake is 1,000 recruits from Nepal and they are mostly from the Rai, Limbu, Tamang, Magar, Chhetri, Sherpa and Newar communities."
There is stiff competition to get into the Indian Army, and roughly 75,000 youngsters apply every year. With tensions high on the India-Pakistan border, it looks like the level of recruitment will increase this year. The Gorkhali troops in the Indian Army who were the best acclimatised for the high-altitude battles in Kargil last year. Thirteen Nepalis lost their lives in that conflict.
The Indian Army currently has seven regiments and 42 battalions, with a total of 50,000 Gorkha troops.