NEW DELHI: Contrary to recent social media outrage by jawans against the ‘buddy’ system in the Army, the Ministry of Defence on Tuesday defended the British-era system, saying it promotes spirit de corps. However, “exhaustive” instructions have been issued to ensure that the sahayaks are not made to do menial tasks as they are combat soldiers, the government said on any misuse of the system.
Recently, several jawans from the Army and para-military forces had come out in public by posting their grievances on social media against the ill-treatment of soldiers by officers, who forced them to do petty jobs.
The issue of the sahayak system has cropped up from time to time with even a Parliamentary panel slamming the government for not doing away with it. At present, there are more than 30,000 sahayaks. The Navy and IAF do not have sahayaks.
“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. This is not expected to have any adverse impact on their morale,” junior minister for defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha in response to a question on the sahayak system.
Bhamre said sahayaks are combatant soldiers and provide support to officers and Junior Commissioned Officers (JCO) when serving with units or the headquarters. Thus, there is no separate category of sahayaks, he 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 soldiers, they provide essential support to authorised officers and JCOs, both in peace and war, to enable them to fully attend to their assigned duties. The buddy also provides an alternate contact with the troops, whereby the officer is made aware of grass root issues, albeit through informal means, Bhamre said.
During operations in field areas, officers and the sahayak act as buddies in arms. One covers the movement of the other and protects him during the operation where support has to be total.
However, instructions are issued on the need to ensure that sahayaks are not forced to do menial tasks, which are not in conformity with the dignity and self-respect of a soldier, he added.