Dehradun: Four hundred and thirty one cadets graduated today at the 71st passing-out parade of the Indian Military Academy in Dehradun. Defence Minister George Fernandes presided over the function.

Lt Antony Joseph, who won the sword of honour, was beaming with pride. He is one of the cadets who symbolize the changing face of the Indian army.

Lt Joseph is the son of a factory worker and has broken the stereotype in an institution once associated with royalty and the upper classes.

“People from all parts of society are joining the army. It’s a good thing, it makes the army better,” said Lt Joseph.

But Joseph is no exception. The record over the past three years shows that almost 60 per cent of its officers commissioned at IMA belong to families with an income of less than ten thousand rupees a month – reflecting the changing social base of the army’s officer class.

In a break from the past, less than 5 percent of the 431 officers commissioned today are the sons of army officers. But about 15 percent belong to families of army jawans, making the tradition of passing on the baton from father to son more of a rarity.

“We have no defence background. Our son worked really hard to reach here,” said a doctor from Bengal.

A son of a truck driver or a tailor can now be spotted among the cadets training to be officers at the Indian Military Academy. It’s a sea change from the time when royal princes used to make a beeline to this great institute.

The new profile of the IMA cadets reflects not only the changing face of the Indian army but of Indian society as a whole because people from low income families have begun to grasp opportunities through their sheer grit and determination.