KATHMANDU, July 6: The integration process in the cantonments at Talbanda and Dudhauli could not start on Thursday either as the combatants refused to take part, expressing dissatisfaction over the selection process.
Even in the cantonments where the process has started the combatants are not happy over the selection process they have to go through, saying it is no different from the one applied for regular recruitment by the national army.
The question now arises: What does the process that has upset the former Maoist fighters involve?
Nepal Army Spokesperson Ramindra Chhetri says the integration has been carried out as per the seven-point agreement reached among major political parties last November.
"The integration has been carried out as per the agreement and as per the standard norms of the Nepal Army. Waiver have been allowed only on education, age and marital status, as agreed by the parties," said Chhetri.
According to the NA, an ex-Maoist combatant aspiring to join the national army at officer level will have to pass as many as 16 tests, including physical and academic tests. Similarly, former Maoist fighters aspiring to join other ranks in the national army will have to pass 10 tests. However, the conditions for female officers and recruits are different.
The process of selecting ex-combatants for officer level ranks begins with registration of the applications supported by academic records and citizenship. They will be eligible for physical tests only if they have the required academic background -- intermediate level in this particular selection case-- and meet the criteria for age waiver of 27 years. Besides, they should weigh 50 kg, with a height of 5 feet 3 inches.
The former combatants will have to pass physical tests comprising push ups (10 times), sit ups (15), chin ups (3), completion of a two-mile run in 17 minutes and 300 meters in 55 seconds.
The successful candidates will then face a 30-minute IQ test. In addition, there will be tests of English, mathematics and Nepali for three hours each, followed by a test of general knowledge.
The next test comprises three types of psychological tests -- for technical officer, group tasking officer and interviewing officer. Finally, the candidate will face a board interview. The candidate will then undergo an 18-month training.
Combatants aspiring to join other ranks will face slightly different and fewer tests.
As they have to face the process applicable for regular recruitments, many former combatants question whether they are being recruited or integrated, according to reports filed by our correspondents from different cantonments.
But the NA spokesperson begs to differ.
"It is integration as per the seven-point agreement among political parties because it is being carried out exclusively among ex-Maoist combatants and waiver on three issues has been given to them. No such waiver is given in regular recruitment," argued Spokesperson Chhetri.
Maoist leader and former deputy commander of the ex-Maoist army Janardan Sharma said that there are also other technical issues relating to the integration process. He said the ex-combatants have faced problems relating to age and education.
As a significant number of ex-combatants have two ages -- one in the identity cards issued by UNMIN during their verification and another in their citizenship certificates.
According to Balananda Sharma, coordinator of the Special Committee secretariat, the problem of age arose as many combatants made out their citizenship papers after their verification by UNMIN. He said these combatants will be disqualified automatically during integration.
Similarly, former combatants recorded a particular level of education with UNMIN but they failed to produce supporting certificates.
"The problem lies with the seven-point agreement [signed last November]," said Sharma, "There has been no effort at any level to resolve the problems at this moment."