Three boys from a humble background in the rural belt of Punjab have realised their dream of joining the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, near Pune. They belong to the first batch of 84 cadets trained at the Nishan-e-Sikhi Preparatory Institute, set up by environmentalist Baba Sewa Singh to revive Punjab’s pride of place in the armed forces.
When Adesh Parkash Singh Pannu, who secured the 116th rank among the successful cadets, took admission at the institute in May 2015 after completing his Class 10, his only aim was to live in the hostel.
“All I wanted was to experience hostel life. I had heard about the NDA but was not serious about clearing the entrance exam. During the two years here, I got the opportunity to listen to motivational talks by retired defence officers,” he says.
“The institute prepared us physically and mentally to crack the exam. I’ve chosen to join the Indian Air Force,” says the boy, who hardly looks 18.
The transformation surprised his parents too. His father, Amarbir Singh Pannu, who belongs to Chaudhri Wala village near Naushehra Pannuan, 15 km from Tarn Taran, credits his son’s instructors for his success. “They motivated him to be serious. I knew this boy had talent because he was ranked 60th in the merit list of the Punjab government’s Maharaja Ranjit Singh Preparatory Institute in Mohali. Though they selected only 48 students, I had an inkling he could do well. But this is a pleasant surprise,” Pannu says.
He works as a systems administrator at Guru Ram Das Medical College, Amritsar.
Adesh’s mother is relieved that her son gained height over the past two years at the institute. “He looks younger than his age but I’m happy he has made it on merit,” she says.
A student of Saint Francis Convent School in Tarn Taran before he joined the Khadoor Sahib institute, Adesh says two years of playing basketball and hockey besides the tough obstacle course helped him build stamina and strength.
SON’S TRIBUTE TO FATHER
Adesh’s batchmate Harsidakpaul Singh, who is ranked 198th among 548 candidates selected to join the NDA, has a story of resolve to share.
He lost his father, Punjab Police inspector Satinderpal Singh, two months after he got admission in the institute in 2015. “It was my father’s dream to see me as an army officer,” he says.
“At my father’s cremation, I vowed to clear the NDA exam and fulfil his dream. I worked hard for this day. I slept for barely four hours. This academy helped me achieve my goal,” says Harsidakpaul.
He is opting for the army even though he cleared the Indian Maritime University exam to join the merchant navy.
His mother Harjit Kaur from Ludhiana says, “My son was eligible for a government job on compassionate grounds but he chose to fulfil my husband’s dream. I’m a proud mother today.”
Success tasted sweeter when Adesh and Harsidakpaul learnt that their batchmate, Dharampreet Singh from Kunt village in Hoshiarpur district, had also made it to the NDA with the 252nd rank.
Dharampreet has come a long way from Guru Harkrishan Public School at Pandori Khazoor village in Tarn Taran district. Though his grandfather subedar Lashkar Singh was his role model, he didn’t know about the NDA when he joined the preparatory institute.
His father, Harjot Singh, is a farmer who doubles up as a trucker to supplement the family income.
“I faltered in academics in Class 11 but was able to crack the exam due to the guidance of my teachers. I faced no difficulty in clearing the services selection board (SSB) interview, considered the toughest task only because of the training I got here,” he says.
GROOMING RURAL TALENT
Environmentalist Baba Sewa Singh Kar Sewa Wale, who is the patron of the institute, at Khadoor Sahib, says, “The representation of Punjabi youth in the armed forces has seen a decline. We took up the challenge of grooming youth from the grassroots to join the defence academy. It is a proud moment for us that three students found success. This is all with the cooperation of the sangat (community) and Wahe Guru’s (Almighty’s) blessings.”
“Despite talent, rural students are rarely successful in this competitive world. By setting up this institute, we have tried to bridge that gap,” he says of the centre set up at Khadoor Sahib, a holy place visited by eight Sikh Gurus.
He announced a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh each for the three cadets.
Institute director Lt Gen Ravinder Singh Chhatwal says, “We offer world-class training facilities and our students are guided by retired army officers. We even introduced the obstacle course despite limited resources.”
The institute provides training in collaboration with a Chandigarh-based coaching academy. via hindustantimes.com