There was a time when West Bengal was poorly represented in the armed forces, that is, Army, Navy and Air Force. And even among those few, very few rose to top positions.
Air Marshal Arup Raha is going to be the latest armed forces officer from West Bengal to rise to the top when he takes charge as the next Air Force chief on December 31, 2013. Before that, the last to rise to a very senior position was General Shankar Roychowdhury, who became the Army chief in 1994, and retired from that post in 1997.
Air Marshal Arup Raha
General Shankar Roychowdhury
A new picture
However, a pleasant new picture emerged when the GOC Bengal Area Lt. Gen. AK Choudhary revealed recently that West Bengal has a 7.81% representation in the armed forces, which according to him, is ‘substantial’.
This places the state in the seventh position in the country in terms of the number of people joining the three services – Army, Navy, Air Force. This is far better than what it was earlier. Another positive aspect of this statistic is that, when compared to the percentage of India’s population from West Bengal, the percentage of officers in the armed forces from the state is greater. The former is 7.55%, while the latter is 7.81%.
This piece of data on the armed forces comes from the service voter stats which the Election Commission maintains. Every year, the Election Commission prepares a list of the people who work with all the three armed forces and includes them under the category called ‘service voter’. Names of members (as well as their families) are entered under the states where they originally hail from, wherever they may be posted. It is seen from this list that the representation in the forces from West Bengal ranks it seventh.
More to come
To encourage more recruitment from the state, Lt. Gen. AK Choudhary, in the meeting with the state’s chief secretary, Sanjay Mitra, suggested that the state provide financial help to aspirants preparing for the tough exams for the officer cadre. According to him, states like Orissa which provide this time of one-time financial assistance have reaped positive results. The number of sainik schools in the state is also going to go up. Currently, there is only one in Purulia, from which Arup Raha passed out. There is a plan to set up another in Darjeeling.
Those who rose to the top
Besides Gen Roychowdhury and Air Marshal Arup Raha, there have been a few others from the state who reached the top. Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee was the first Indian to become the chief of the Air Force. He stayed there from 1954 to 1960, which makes him the longest serving chief of the Air Force. The national level inter-school football tournament, Subroto Cup, is named after him. General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri was the Chief of Army Staff from 1962 to 1966 and the Military Governor of Hyderabad State from 1948 to 1949. Admiral Adhar Kumar Chatterji was the Chief of the Naval Staff from 1966 to 1970. He was also the first Indian officer of the navy to hold the rank of Admiral. Air Marshal Padmavathy Bandopadhyay was the first woman Air Marshal of the Indian Air Force; however she was not from Bengal.
Air Marshal Subroto Mukerjee
General Joyanto Nath Chaudhuri
Admiral Adhar Kumar Chatterji