Strongly defending the colonial- era Sahayak system in the army, government today said it provides an “essential support” to officers in “fully” attending to their duties in times of peace and war. At the same time, the government told the Rajya Sabha that Sahayaks (orderlies) are combatants and exhaustive instructions have been issued regularly to not make them perform menial tasks which are not in conformity with the dignity of a soldier.
The reply by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, came in the backdrop of a raging controversy over use of ‘Sahayaks’ by some army officers as their servants. “A Sahayak, in addition to his normal soldier’s tasks, provides essential support to officers/ JCOs (junior commissioned officers) both in peace and war which enables them to fully attend to their assigned duties,” Bhamre said.
Earlier this month, the body of a jawan, Roy Mathew, was found hanging at Deolali cantonment in Maharashtra after a sting video, which showed him complaining about being made to do household chores of superior officers, went viral. Days later, a sepoy also posted a video online criticising the Sahayak or buddy system and accused the senior officers of treating them as “slaves”.
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Bhamre said the Sahayak system provides support to the officers and helps in creating rapport between officers and the buddies. “The rapport between officers and the buddies has led to enhancement of the spirit-de-corps in a unit, which is vital during war and peace. As such, this is not expected to have any adverse impact on their morale. “Notwithstanding this, exhaustive instructions have been issued from time to time stressing upon the need to ensure that under no circumstances Sahayaks, being combatant soldiers, are employed on menial tasks, which are not in conformity with the dignity and self respect of a soldier,” he said.
Bhamre said a Sahayak has clearly defined military duties and forms an integral part of the organisational structure of a unit, and has specific functions during war and peace. “In addition to their duties as soldier, they provide the essential support to authorized officers and JCOs, both in peace and war to enable them to fully attend to their assigned duty. During operations in the field areas, Officer / JCO and the Sahayak act as buddies in arms. “One covers the movement of the other buddy and protects him in operation where support has to be total that is mental, physical and moral,” he said. The Navy and the Air Force do not have the system of Sahayaks.