Army in trouble in Telangana over recruitment

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Hyderabad:  It was meant to be a recruitment drive for the Army in Andhra Pradesh's Warangal district. A new battalion was being formed, and as per an earlier government decision, it would consist entirely of young men who belonged to Telangana's 10 districts.

On Friday night, applicants from Srikakulam district of north coastal Andhra Pradesh, staying at a Hanamkonda hostel, came across their competition - men from as far away as Rajasthan and Haryana. Though they themselves did not fulfill the nativity criterion, they were not amused to find people from outside Andhra Pradesh. A riot soon broke out.

What is now emerging is a large scam, complete with the involvement of local bureaucrats and retired and serving army officers. On Monday, 70 people were arrested for rioting and cheating.

The "imposters" were armed with fake certificates of residency that were sold to the out-of-Telangana candidates for thousands of rupees. The police believes two Army men may have been involved with the scam, and is trying to track them down.  Some of the applicants found with fake documents claim they bought these from a retired army officer.

"The local police identified it as fraud. We are demanding re-verification," said B.Vinod Kumar, a leader of the Telangana Rashtriya Samiti (TRS), the party that's leading the campaign for a separate Telangana state.

The Army says the potential recruits are being put through the usual fitness and endurance tests, and that before anyone is hired, certificates will be carefully cross-examined. The police have asked for the list of shortlisted candidates and their certificates so that they can be verified.

"We in the Indian Army cannot ask the people to leave. Everyone with a seemingly valid certificate we have to accept. We will do the reverification later," says Commander Thomas, a spokesperson for the Army.

The larger concern for many is that with fake certificates apparently available fairly easily, militants could try and use them to enter the Army.


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