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The story of Noida’s midnight runner Pradeep Mehra inspires, but will that be good enough to get him in the Army?

There is no doubt the 19-year-old boy is dedicated, hardworking and committed, but social media cannot be a criterion for selection in the Army as there are many others preparing in a similar manner in remote corners of the country

The power of social media can never be underestimated. The latest video going viral on various groups shows a young, highly motivated teenager running back from work past midnight and refusing an offer of a lift or dinner just because he doesn’t want to deviate from his objective: To join the Army.

Captured on camera by a National Award-winning filmmaker Vinod Kapri is the purposeful strides, confidence and commitment of young Pradeep Mehra, a 19-year-old boy from Almora in Uttrakhand. On Sunday, Kapri took to Twitter and shared a post that inspired everyone and garnered millions of hits in a short time.

The post has a video of Pradeep, who runs 10 km every night after his duty at McDonald’s in Noida to ensure that he is fit enough to join the Army. The interaction reveals the burning desire of the young boy to achieve his ambition while being engaged in a conversation by the driver of a car which has slowed down on seeing him running.

Despite Kapri offering him a lift to his home several times, Pradeep refuses as he doesn’t want to waiver from the path he has charted out for himself: He states he doesn’t get time to run during the day due to his busy schedule at work. The conversation also reveals that his mother is currently in hospital and he lives with his brother in Barola village in Noida. He states that he will get back and cook for his brother. Declining an offer for dinner, Pradeep states: “No, my elder brother will be left hungry then.” His brother has a night shift at work and so can’t cook for himself, he says.

The response to this video has been unprecedented. Former cricketer Harbhajan Singh, who is a newly nominated candidate for the Rajya Sabha from Punjab, said: “Champions are made like this, whether on the sports field or anything they do in life. He will be a winner.” Former England batsman Kevin Pietersen said, “This will make your Monday morning!” Retired Generals such as Lieutenant General Syed Ata Hasnain and Lieutenant General Satish Dua both reached out to the present Eastern Army Commander.

Lieutenant General Satish Dua in his tweet stated: “His josh is commendable and to help him pass the recruitment tests on his merit, I’ve interacted with Colonel of Kumaon Regiment, Lieutenant General Rana Kalita, the Eastern Army Commander. He is doing the needful to train the boy for recruitment into his Regiment.” Basically, emphasising that while help will be given for preparing and training, he will need to pass on his merit.

Manish Sisodia, Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi, said that he could not stop watching the video: “Civil servants and politicians may feel small in front of this child’s passion and dedication.”

Kapri is an award-winning filmmaker, with a National Award to his credit. His critically acclaimed film Pihu (2017) bagged two awards at an international film festival. Before venturing into filmmaking, he spent 23 years as a TV journalist.

The Army, of course, has stringent procedures for recruitment to include an application, the eligibility being at least 45 per cent marks in aggregate and 33 per cent in each subject in Class X, followed by physical — which of course is higher for technical arms and clerks — written and medical tests.

There is no flexibility and leeway in the system. While most recruitments are done in open rallies in various locations all over India, there are also quotas for wards of both serving and ex-servicemen as well as sports quota. Incidentally, Neeraj Chopra was recruited into the Army on the sports quota and continues to serve till date.

While there is no doubt the boy is dedicated, hardworking and committed, social media cannot be a criterion for selection as there are many others preparing in a similar manner in remote corners of the country. Ultimately, merit remains the sole criteria. What stands out is Pradeep’s positive attitude and unwavering resolve and above all his character — all essential prerequisites for a good soldier. And with these attributes, he should be able to achieve his goal.

The author is an Army veteran. Views expressed are personal.

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