In the past two years, three cadets have died during training at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), the premier institute of the Indian Army which grooms cadets into commissioned officers of the armed forces.While two cadets passed away due to exhaustion during a 10-km cross-country marathon in August 2017, a 21-year-old cadet who was formerly in the NDA, died last week after he slipped into a gorge while participating in a night navigation exercise.

The deaths have led to the question whether the quality of training at IMA needs to be looked into — in order to ensure that protocols and safety measures are more strictly enforced — or whether the problem lies with the quality of the trainees as the cadets should be selected more carefully to ensure that only the toughest are eligible for the challenging course.A senior official posted at the IMA dismissed that there was anything amiss with the training. “All Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) are being diligently followed. The deaths during training are simply unfortunate incidents.” However, Lt Gen (retd) DS Hooda, who oversaw the surgical strike across the LOC in 2016, called for a constant review of safety standards during training.

“The deaths are extremely unfortunate. I think we should constantly review safety issues during training so that such incidents are avoided. However, the training methodology and syllabus have proved their worth and there should not be any major tinkering with it.” Former IMA commandant Lt Gen (retd) GS Negi said that “a possible reason could be the overall fitness level of the cadets.” “In our time, the fitness level was much more than the present generation. But yes, safety standard also need to be relooked.” Meanwhile, defence expert Maroof Raza said the IMA training modules are “the best for producing toughest Army officers.” “Of course, the deaths are unfortunate but I don’t think there is need to change modules.”