The Indian Army has issued orders for its troops to slim down or risk missing out on promotion as it tackles what it says is a rising obesity problem that has left soldiers looking “slovenly” in their uniforms.
“This issue (of obesity) has serious ramifications,” declared a circular issued by the army headquarters in Delhi, including “combat readiness” and “public embarrassment due to the slovenly appearance in uniform.”
The circular said the army, the world’s third largest with 1.3 million personnel, would in future conduct an annual ‘obesity evaluation examination’ for all soldiers and officers that would affect their chances of promotion.
Overweight personnel will be deprived of prized postings, overseas assignments, admission to courses to further their careers and even re-employment after retirement.
They would also be ineligible to receive unit citations or act as escorts at award ceremonies.
A recent sample survey conducted by the defence ministry and the Indian Council for Medical Research involving 767 soldiers, revealed that a third of them were overweight due to lack of exercise.
And though obese soldiers will have to individually deal with the consequences of being overweight, their immediate superiors too are likely to be held responsible and penalised for their plump troops.
Official sources said the campaign against obesity was launched at the initiative of the supremely fit Army Chief of Staff General Dalbir Singh Suhag, who is known to run more than seven miles a day.
Gen Singh recently declared that some battalion and brigade commanders were unfit and unable to visit their high-altitude border posts, and needed badly to get into shape.