Agrima Dubey, alumni of RGNUL (2010-2015), has cracked the SSB through JAG entry and is currently undergoing training at Officers Training Academy [OTA], Chennai. In this interview with she talks about JAG entry, the full SSB procedure, and her life at OTA.

What motivated you to join the Indian Army?

My father had served in the Indian Air Force and observing him, I liked the lifestyle and the charm of being in defence forces.

Initially, I had no idea about JAG. I came to know about JAG from a senior (Aman Dubey) in my first year at RGNUL. He gave a lecture on how law graduates can join defence forces and told that there is a special entry for law graduates. So it was pretty much clear to me from my first year itself that I have to try for JAG.

But the SSB procedure is so unpredictable that you just cannot rely upon it. You need to have a very strong backup.

What is the application procedure for JAG entry in Indian Army?

Firstly, you would have to fill an application form and for that, you must have scored 55% in your law degree.

Then you would get a call from the SSB and you would have to go through the normal SSB procedure. Everyone has to go through the same process, be it JAG entry, technical entry, CDS, non-tech, all are same.

Tell us about the screening test. 

It’s a very basic knowledge test. They test how smart you are through a small reasoning test. It also includes PPDT – Picture Perception and description test. All the people would be separated in a group of 10-15 and they would show you a picture and you have to write a story on it in 4 minutes. Then the group members have to engage in a discussion to arrive at a common story.

What happens after passing the screening test?

If you pass the screening test, there would be other tests in the remaining 4 days, i.e., Group Test, Psychology test, and a Final Interview.

If 40 people have passed the screening test, they would make 4 group of 10 people each. There would be a group discussion, testing on ground and an individual testing too. SSB is a scientific process, they check you from every possible angle.

What happens in the psychological test?

They would show you twelve pictures and you will have to write stories on them. After that, different words will flash for 15 seconds on a screen and you have to write the first sentence your mind makes after seeing those words. Then they would ask for your reaction to certain hypothetical situations.

After that, you would be asked for a small description – What do you think about yourself? What do your parents think of you? They just want to know – How well you know what people around you think about you? You also have to write what they think lacks in you.

What about the final SSB Interview?

They check your personality through that interview. They ask you things related to your personal life. They make you feel so comfortable that you forget that you are sitting in front of an officer and you are being interviewed. You tell everything to him as you are telling it to a friend. And they judge your personality by that. How are you with your friends? What is your equation with your family? Because if the person is not able to adjust with his friends and family then how will that person adjust in such a big organization that functions like a family.

To know more about JAG entry, read – How can law graduates join Indian Army? [JAG Entry]

Do they test knowledge of the law?

No. Officers doing the interview are normal officers and don’t have a law background generally. If they have some knowledge of law then they may ask you questions on law, but it is not compulsory to test knowledge of the law in JAG entry of SSB interview.

Did they ask you any question on the law?

No, they didn’t. They had asked me in my previous SSB interviews, but not in this one. It was my fourth attempt at SSB, third for JAG entry. I tried once for Air Force. Previously I was recommended, but after the recommendation, they make a merit list. Almost 50 girls get recommended but there are only 4 vacancies for girls. So, only four from the top would be selected and rest would have to follow the full procedure in next attempt. [Around 1000 – 1200 girls apply for it].

How do you feel after breaking our society’s stereotype that it’s not a profession for women?

See, I never had to face a situation that defence forces are not for women. But obviously, after choosing an unconventional profession, you feel good and confident.

How is life at Officers Training Academy (OTA), Chennai?

You don’t even realize how days pass here. They start at four in the morning and end at 12 or 12:30 at night. After arriving at this place I understood that we only really need three hours of sleep, anything more than that is solely for personal pleasure.

You wake up at 4 and prepare your uniform for the day. There are different uniforms for every day and if you go wrong even slightly, you’re punished and the punishments are extremely hard, they’re called restrictions here. For instance, the first class i.e. parade, which usually starts at 5:45 for everyone else, will begin at 5 for you. You have to report in your best uniform in the morning. 

During punishment, you have to report thrice a day. When everyone else is resting a little in the afternoon, at 4 pm, you have to complete 5 km run with 8 kg weight in 35 minutes.

Third reporting is at night. When you’re in battle, you’re supposed to carry a particular backpack that contains all items necessary for survival along with a smaller bag. We are supposed to properly arrange these two bags and show it to the authorities.

One punishment gets cancelled by three reporting and they give you minimum 3 punishments at a time.

So, first is PT, then drill, then we have an hour for breakfast followed by lectures from 8:40 to 1:00. After that, we have lunch followed by a study period in which you have to clean your room and sit steadily on the chair.

Then we have a games period from 4-6 pm. After that, we have an anti-room procedure where all of us sit together and discuss our problems. This is also a compulsory activity. 

After dinner, we have a study period followed by PT again which might sound odd because people generally don’t exercise after dinner, but that’s not the case with us, we exercise rigorously thrice a day. At 10:30 lights are out and we are done for the day.

Is there any difference between the training schedule of males and females at OTA Chennai?

The training process is same except that we get a little more time to do certain things. For example – we get 13½ minutes in kilometre test whereas the boys get 11½ minutes.

How was your first week at OTA, Chennai?

I was very passionate about coming here. But after being exposed to such rigorous training suddenly along with the constant Ragdas from seniors really made me downtrodden. Every day I questioned my decision and wondered if I should withdraw. I often cried in the shower.

Do you still feel that?

You would get the same feeling every day until you get out from OTA, Chennai. However, the intensity of the feeling reduces.

What are the responsibilities of a JAG officer?

All the cases of army and service matters are handled by a JAG officer. Cases in court-martial too, depending on your rank. If you are up to the post of major you would be assigned small cases. Cases of more importance, and high profile cases would be assigned to Lt. Colonel or upper rank.

Any advice for aspiring SSB candidates?

People with a law background have an advantage that they’re very expressive and have a vast global knowledge. Officers at SSB just want to know – how good you are at managing things? Be whoever you aredon’t listen to anyone around you. That is the key to clearing SSB.

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