Nepali Army Inc. - from catering to education

The Nepali Army’s foray into the education sector for running a course in agriculture for the public has drawn criticism with observers saying there has to be a line drawn on what the defense forces should and should not do

Sirshendu Panth Jun 12, 2021
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Nepali Army

The Nepali Army’s foray into the education sector for running a course in agriculture for the public has drawn criticism with observers saying there has to be a line drawn on what the defense forces should and should not do.

Over the years, the army has continued to diversify its interests. Like the Pakistan Army, the Nepali Army has been in the commercial business for long.

But at a time when the army’s business ventures have raised questions, it has opted to run a course in agriculture and open it to the general public to pursue BSc (Agriculture) from next year.

The army's other dream project of establishing a dedicated Defence University is set to go into construction soon.

Former defense minister Bhimshen Das Pradhan said the Army’s fresh involvement in the education sector does not bode well as it has already ventured into a lot of businesses.

“It is not good for the army to venture into the education sector and open one stream of education after another,” said Pradhan. “It is not good for the army to be involved in different sectors.”

The Nepali Army is over 90,000 strong, of which some 30,000 are officers and technical personnel like doctors and engineers.

“This is happening largely because its huge manpower is sitting idle. If the army diversifies its ventures and businesses like this, then it cannot gain professionalism. Such a venture will definitely have business motives and will disorient Nepali Army from its core objectives,” said Pradhan.

“I was not even amused when the army was awarded the tender for the Kathmandu-Tarai Fast Track project,” Pradhan was quoted as saying by Kathmandu Post.

Through its welfare fund and other wings, the national army is running a business complex, leasing out buildings and properties, and buying land and selling plots to ex-servicemen.

It also runs a food catering business and runs schools and medical institutions to educate doctors and nurses.

Most importantly, the national defense force’s business ambition has been seen in its involvement in the country’s largest project, the first-ever expressway project that will connect Kathmandu to the Tarai.

The government awarded the Rs213 billion project —a 72.5-kilometer expressway— in 2017 after efforts to build it through the Department of Roads ran into controversy.

Nepali Army has established a Vocational Agriculture and Husbandry Training Centre in Lamjung where it imparts training to retired and retiring Nepal Army personnel and has been awarding certificates to junior technical assistants (JTAs) for the last two years.

It is now planning to upgrade the training center to Nepal Army Institute of Agriculture Sciences and start an undergraduate course from next year which will be open to the general public, Nepal Army spokesperson Brigadier General Shantosh Ballave Poudyal told the Post.

The army has spent over Rs 140 million to set up the center spread over 20.34 hectares.

Some former Nepali Army officials view the army’s educational venture positively saying it will do good for the nation but questions might arise.

“Nepali Army has a long history of imparting training to its outgoing personnel in different sectors and professions. They used to be two months long. Now, Nepali Army is doing business and building academic institutions like setting up Defence University and running MBBS and nursing courses. Though people might debate over these new initiatives, they are good ventures for the country,” former Nepali Army major general Binoj Basnyat said.

(SAM)

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