SAHAYAK : A Soldier On Duty But Beyond Mandate

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An extract from the famous qoute by the late British General Philip Walhouse Chetwode who was the Commander in Chief of the British Indian Army says ” The Honour,Welfare & Comfort of the Men You Command Comes Next (first line- The Safety,Welfare & Honour of your Country Comes First Always & Everytime) this line is holy to the military fraternity and that descends down to each successive generation of Officers who join the great Indian Army.But alas it seems the crux & the nub of the quote has been forgotten by the officers of each succesive generation that make up to the highest post of this great Organization.Its because the Officers have forgotten that its the Soldier who makes up the great Army & one only becomes a great Leader when he follows his Men.And this malady begins with a very old system of using Soldiers beyond their official mandate as SAHAYAKS.

Soldiers are meant to assist their officers on duty only in official works so that, the officer can have his whole attention focussed on the task of National security & the follow on mandatory activities that strictly adheres to the mandate of National Security.But this definition of Sahayaks(Soldiers/assistants/orderly) has been broadly forgotten by the Leaders in uniform.They often misconstrue the definition of ”BUDDY” with ”BATMAN” (Sahayak- indian Version) and use the former as an Orderly in fullfilling their domestic compulsions.BUDDY ,in Military ,is a Combatant soldier assigned to an Officer to help him stay ready and accomplish his official obligations successfully,that is to Keep his Uniform ready for daily official assignments,fetch him his weapon from the armoury,convey his order to his subordinates,assist him while he is on active Operations in Field Units and likewise ,so in clear terms he is there to assist his officer only in discharging his official duty & not for domestic help.But time and again some disgruntled officers have mistaken this ”Privillege” as their ”Right” to have a buddy as soon as they join the force as a commissioned officer and use them for accomplishing their domestic compulsions like cleaning House,taking their pets on walk,gardening,driving their lady wives to shopping malls,escorting their relatives,catering snacks to their guests,babysitting and likewise to which they are not officially authorised to do so.And this misconception and its subsequent misuse have been deliberately allowed to prevail within the force with official connivance & extraneous excuses thereby disrupting the cordial  relationship between the officers and Jawans. In Past the incidents like in Nyoma where there was a major stand off between the officers and jawans of 226 Field Arty. Of 114 Infantry Brigade posted in Leh over a minor issue that led to manhandling of a Sahayak by the young officers and that led to violent clash between officers & jawans. Apart from that there was also an incident that took place in meerut last october where there were fisticuffs between the officers & Jawans of 6 Sikh Light Infantry took place over an inter regiment boxing match and this incident succeeds another scuffle that took place between the officers and jawans of 16 Cavalry unit in Samba.The moot point is the insensitivity of the officers towards the expectations and the aspirations  of the jawans.

Do Jawans join Army to do menial works and become a domestic help doing all sorts of odd jobs ? Certainly not,they join the organisation to protect their nation and ofcourse to learn and grow.Just think ,alike Officers Jawans too are graduates/postgraduates and so they have their own expectations and aspirations to chase and acheive .so a 21st century army with 19th century social rules is not going to promote the cordial relationship between the officers and jawans.Often the military officers complain that their civilian counterparts enjoy the benefit of Orderlies and so they are entitled to do and that’s a misconception they bore in mind while they make such baseless arguments,because from bureaucrats to judges, all are given orderlies/peons only to help them in discharging their official duties like transferring files within department,conveying their insructions to subordinates and other concerned authorities and likewise,so its very clear if any of the said officer uses them for accomplishing his/her domestic compulsions is doing a grave mistake and is illegal.But this illegtimate acts will cost military dearer than it does to civil authority because in Military the trust &  emotional bondage between officers and jawans is very important for the existance of the organisation and for the National Security.

In 2010, a parliamentary panel headed by Satpal Maharaj had asked the Army to take a leaf out of the Navy and the Air Force and abolish the “demeaning and humiliating” practice of employing jawans as ‘sahayaks’ to the officers. Thousands of trained soldiers in the Army are provided as assistants to officers and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs), and the Defence Ministry had argued before the panel that ‘sahayaks’ help officers in communications and other tasks during operations which was rightly rejected by the parliamentary panel .The panel said that its recommendations in the report on ‘Stress Management in Armed Forces‘ were misquoted by Army’s AG Branch in its circular which stated that abolition of practice of employing sahayaks would not be in organizational interest.

An Infantry battalion of Army has 819 Jawans including 20 officers out of which hardly 10 – 15 officers stay in the unit at any given time depending upon the nature of the posting  (peace station/field formation),43-45 JCOs,80 trademen ( Safailwala,barber,cook etc.) and the rest are Jawans including NCOs(Non Commssioned Officers) & PBORs( Personnel Below Officer Ranks).Each officer gets a combtant soldier as Sahayak,and also some senior JCOs use jawans as Sahayaks and with this around 35-40 (approx) jawans are engaged in tasks beyond their mandate.Generally At any given time around 100-150 jawans go on leave,some 100-120 suffer from medical problem due to their previous field assignments and some 5-6 jawans were sent as Sahayaks along with their Unit officers who are outstation for various training courses.So with this nearly 50% of the workforce in a battalion are assigned to the duties to which they are not officially authorised to do . Although an officer is “authorised” to have one sahayak — which soldier is to be a sahayak is determined by a roster — senior officers have often used the services of more than one soldier for personal work. The Soldiers assigned as Sahayaks also get default in their training and their battle preparedness also gets affected as they have to manage their official mandate as a Soldier to train themselves for the battle along with the unofficial mandate as Sahayak.Even it has been reported that retired officers through their colleagues & immediate juniors in active service manage to arrange combatant soldiers as Sahayaks post Retirement and enjoy the unstated benefit.Apart from that officers attach the soldiers of their units in the local Army unit where their family stays and employ them as Sahayaks to accomplish their domestic work.These illegal activities not only downs the morale of the Jawans but also beat their aspirations and expectations from the army . A former NSG Commando and a Lance Naik from Madras Regiment R. Murugan who joined the force in 2000 revelaed how the Shayaks are ill treated by their officers.He said It was during a three-year stint with the National Security Guard (NSG), the elite counter-terrorism and special operations unit, that Murugan began seeing the ‘batman’ system as demeaning. Earlier, he had thought that being a ‘batman’ was a necessary part of military service. His grandfather and father had also served their officers as ‘batmen’, so he thought he had to do the same. But, as an NSG commando, Murugan saw that the focus was on their training and welfare.“Those were the best days of my life,” he says. “The training helped me realise what I was capable of as a soldier. I was not asked to walk the officers’ dogs, help them shift house, escort their wives when they went shopping or become a waiter when they partied.”Murugan says many soldiers like him resent the indignity of serving as ‘batmen’ He says the jawans find it very demeaning when, for instance, they are offered ‘tips’ after helping an officer shift his residence. When an officer or someone in his family gets married, the jawans have to provide all the labour.It’s not unusual for jawans to have 18-hour workdays. Add another two hours for maintaining the barracks and uniforms, etc. So they have to make do with just four hours of sleep. Even Sundays are reserved for doing household chores for the officers’ families.“The jawans should be encouraged to complete their education and join job-oriented courses so that their post-retirement options aren’t limited to private security agencies and special police units,” says Murugan. “But all our off-duty time goes into working as domestic help and labourers for the officers.”When an officer is sent for a training course, he takes the ‘buddy’ with him; when he is transferred, a ‘buddy’ is transferred along with him. Murugan also talks of cases where the officers have thrashed jawans. Murugan says that a major in his regiment hit a jawan for not dancing at a party. Last year, an officer of the 10 Sikh Light Infantry allegedly beat up a jawan for losing an inter-regiment boxing match. A fight broke out between the jawans and the officers, and two officers and a jawan landed in hospital with fractures. . Top-level officers are allowed to keep as many as 15-16 jawans as domestic staff. It also has been reported that when the Sahayak resist to do any Work that he feels against his dignity , he was brought back to his parent unit and made humiliated , tortured through different ways by entrusting different official works. First Lieutenant Laura Condyles of US Army who was in Agra for a 52 day course at Para Training School, Agra last November in her submission to the US Army Official Publicity Wing mentioned of the class-system in the Indian Army and has stoked once again the debate of assigning sahayaks — or batmen — who are often required to do personal work of officers. She said “When you are an officer on post, they cook your meal for you, or they deliver it to your room. They clean your bathroom for you every day. They mop your floors in your room every day. They even make your bed for you every day, and they do your laundry every single day,”

Whenever a District Magistrate goes on a raid ,his Peon/Orderly assist him and carry out his Order to the effect,this is somewhat akin to the work of the Buddy system in military.A former army officer revealed how in past Army chiefs & commanders post retirement retained Sahayaks in multiple of 2-3 and even after their death the sahayaks still serve their family members. He also said that Army has failed to stop sahayak system and the Sahayaks are also being provided to the MoD officials by Army.He too revealed about directorates who go about attaching as many vehicles and Sahayaks as they want.

In 2008 Commanders Conferance the then Defence Minister A.K Antony had asked Army to do away with the Sahayak System and he  believes the system is an anachronism in these times — much like hand-pulled rickshaws on Calcutta’s streets — when recruits into the army are better educated and, therefore, have a greater sense of self-esteem than their predecessors.Even Sixth Pay  commision Panel for the Paramilitary forces, had recommended that an officer found guilty of using a constable as a sahayak should have the orderly’s salary deducted from the superior’s pay. Former army chief General VK Singh told the media that when he was heading the force, he had sent a proposal to do away with the ‘Batman’ system. However, he made a distinction between the ‘Batman’ system and ‘Buddies’, saying that the former was an unnecessary drain on the army’s resources, while the latter were required for assisting officers on the field. In 2012, then Army COAS General Vijay Kumar Singh had instituted a study on abolition of Sahayak System and proposed that the soldiers will be replaced by civilians of two kinds- Service Assistants (SA) and Non-Combatant Assistants (NCA). Around 2,358 SAs and 22,620 NCAs will be needed to replace the sahayaks.The total annual expenditure for this setup is estimated to be around Rs 178.20 crore. All the officers above the rank Brigadier will be provided service assistants. Together there are 1,510 officers including brigadiers, major generals, lieutenant generals and general. Even colonels who are in family stations are entitled to SAs. The SAs will cost the exchequer Rs 15,000 a month.Even among the 30,450 ‘field ranks’, 18,270 of who are stationed in peace stations would be entitled to Non-Combatant Assistants. Unlike SAs, NCAs can be hired on a contract and paid Rs 5,000 a month.Among captains and lieutenants, only those posted in peace stations will be entitled to NCAs. However, each NCA will have to be shared by two officers. Effectively 4350 NCAs would be required.In reality the actual figures of NCA and SA may stand high. Many Good Officers are there in Army with Humane heart who treat their Buddies as part of their Family and also helped them raise their Financial health & encouraged them to Join Officer Rank & also assisted their Children to become an officer in Army & also to pursue other Professional Studies. Its now high time that the Indian Army should do away with SAHAYAK System  and treat its Jawans with  dignity as they are the Men who make up the Great Organisation.Armed forces of the Developed Countries like France,USA,UK,Italy,Germany have abolished the BATMAN system long ago.

Kautilya, also known as Chanakya gave his king this blunt
warning: “The day the soldier has to demand his dues will be a sad day for Magadha for then, on that day, you will have lost all moral sanction to be King!”

Let the good sense prevail and our beloved Soldiers get their due Respect they Aspire for & for which they joined the force.

3 thoughts on “SAHAYAK : A Soldier On Duty But Beyond Mandate

  1. Anujit Kumar Mukhopadhyay June 4, 2014 — 12:44

    A most critical issue, a very timely reminder.

    Like

  2. Very relevant article but will it change….
    1. Discipline flows from top to bottom not otherwise so decision has to be taken at highest level ie def min ot COAS…
    2. When air force and navy are functioning without batman system why cant army
    3. There shoud not be any soldier employed as sahak SA and NCA are better options as suggested by gen VK singh and same followed in trg academies.
    4. Strict punishment shoud be given to defaulters including red entries and pay deduction to offrs, CMP and int agencies should be empowered to report the misuse of soldiers. .because this malpractice of ill treating soldiers has embedded in offrs blood and veins they take them as their servants and take their birth rights to use them like this….so very strict punishment is reqd to do away this system. .

    Like

    1. Sir , indeed , such colonial practice should be abolished …..Buddy System is strictly professional one & should be used for that only …… not for anything else ….

      Like

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