Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Army and sahayaks

There is a problem with Indian Army. Many soldiers resent being sahayaks. Sahayak means assistant or helper. Soldiers say they join the army to fight for the country, not to do menial jobs of officers. Officers say sahayaks are buddies; it is voluntary to be a sahayak. Officers are busy. There are four officers where there should be eighteen. They have no time to clean their rifles, polish their shoes. Navy and Air Force officers do not have sahayaks. There is a demand to end use of soldiers as sahayaks.
All is not well with army or paramilitary troops. Videos of complaints by soldiers and others have come out. There are allegations of corruption and swindling by officers. It started with a BSF jawan posting a video about the food. Then a soldier posted a video of being used as a servant by officer. The matter became serious when Roy Mathew, a soldier who was used as a sahayak at Deolali Cantonment, was videographed by a news web site and found dead after some days.
There is another video of Sindhav Jogidas accusing some officers treating sahayaks as slaves. Army has rejected the accusations and claimed Sindhav Jogidas was never employed as a sahayak.
The problem was there for a long time. There was no redressal. Soldiers could complain to higher authorities as per chain of command but nothing good will come out of it. Officers continue to use sahayaks as servants. The difference now is that there are social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube. Sahayaks can post their complaints there. That gets publicity. Army responds by saying the sahayak was not a good fellow, he was insubordinate and so on. Army has told soldiers to take their complaints or demands as per chain of command and not to go public with their complaints or demands but some will go public anyway.
From time to time we hear of a soldier shooting his officer or other soldiers. We don’t get to know why. Once there was a mutiny. Problems in the army have been hushed up for a long time.
Soldiers are not for doing jobs of officers like washing utensils and cars, sweeping and mopping floor, taking out dogs, dropping children to school and bringing back, doing the works of guests and so on. It does not take long to polish shoes or clean a rifle. If necessary, civilians should be employed to help officers.
In 2008 the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence had asked the Ministry of Defence to issue instructions to stop forthwith the shameful practice of sahayaks which lowers the self-esteem of jawans. Nine years later the shameful practice continues.

Updated: March 11, 2017 — 7:43 am

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