Amid the ongoing controversy over of a jawan expressing his grievances against senior officers due to alleged abuse as an orderly, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat on Friday lent his support to ending the ‘sahayak’ or buddy system in peace zones and warned that any officer found misusing their buddy will face strict action
Rawat announced that a “suggestion and grievance” system will be put in place across all formations, beginning with the headquarters and appealed to soldiers to not air their grievances on social media and try and handle matters internally at first. “Whoever has any problem, come to me directly,” General Rawat said in his first press conference as the Army Chief.
Along with an Army jawan, troopers from BSF and CRPF have also posted online videos on social media apps showing their poor quality of life and alleged that they were being misused by officers for personal work. “Anybody misusing their buddies would be dealt with strictly and there are provisions for that,” Gen Rawat told MAIL TODAY on the sidelines of his annual press conference.
GOVERNMENT TO DECIDE ON BUDDY SYSTEM
General Rawat also stated that the Army Headquarters had submitted a proposal to the government that ‘sahayaks’ could be done away with in peace locations, but said that the buddy system is important for functioning of the Army in times of wars and for deployment of forces in field areas.
Buddy system is a colonial system where combat soldiers are used as orderlies or sahayaks to polish boots and maintain the uniform of the officers and junior commissioned officers. However, there have been several complaints of misuse.
In the video posted on Thursday, Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh, posted in 42 Infantry Brigade in Dehradun, alleged that he was tortured by his superiors for writing to Prime Minister, the defence minister, the President and the Supreme Court in June last year on mistreatment of jawans under the ‘sahayak’ system in the Army.
Singh said that on receiving an instruction to investigate the issue, his superiors began harassing him and also initiated an inquiry that could potentially result in his sacking from the force.
In his almost two-hour long interaction with the media, General Rawat also touched upon the controversy surrounding superseded eastern army commander Lt Gen Pravin Bakshi saying that if he complained against any issue to him, the Army headquarters will definitely look into it.
Bakshi, who was superseded by Rawat last month for appointment as Army chief, had told his commanders in a new year address that some people had conspired against him in the last five six months and he would expose them soon.
ON ISSUE OF WOMEN IN COMBAT
The Army chief also called upon women aspiring to join combat roles in the force to prove themselves to get the opportunity to do so. “If we induct women into combat role, they will have to share equal responsibility like their male counterparts because equal opportunity must come with equal responsibility. Which means that they will have to perform exactly the same task,” Rawat asserted.
The chief cited the example of tank crews who live inside their tanks and sleep besides it in open during wars and infantry patrols which walk for up to 35 days in places such as Arunachal Pradesh and men eat and sleep together. He said women will have to be ready to face such hardship to join the combat forces.