Bipin Rawat. Photograph:( Twitter )
By Abhishek Bhalla
Stressing that the armed forces cannot afford a communication breakdown between the officers and ranks, Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat defended the ‘buddy system’ or the use of Sahayaks in the Army wherein a soldiers is attached to an officer.
The practice has often been condemned as the “buddy” is required to run personal errands for the officer.
“This is an integral part of the Force as the buddy is actually a confidant of the officer and someone you can open out to,” General Rawat said on Friday, adding that the Army has recommended that it can be done away with in peace stations.
General Rawat was answering questions about the controversy over the quality of food and facilities being provided to soldiers in the army and paramilitary forces.
Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force, and army jawans had recently taken to social media to air their grievances about the poor quality of food and facilities being provided to them.
And a soldier had alleged in a YouTube video that he was forced to "wash clothes, polish boots and walk dogs" for his seniors, and that he was being hounded for flagging the menial jobs he had been made to do.
General Rawat said that he would want the soldiers to complain directly to him rather than use social media. He said that he has decided to place suggestion-cum-complaint boxes at army headquarters and every camp, and that they will be monitored by his office. He said the identity of the person complaining would be kept secret and in case of a leak, people in his office will be held accountable.
“A soldier is a soldier. He should not shy away from penning his name as the identity will be kept secret. They should come directly to us. If they are dissatisfied with the action they can use other means,” General Rawat said.
General Rawat clarified that the “buddy” system does not mean that the person is required to do menial jobs, adding if he is not comfortable he can refuse. “It has been recommended that in field areas, a buddy is needed since he also assists the officer in operations. In other areas, we can do away with the system and even accept civilians to assist,” he added.
Soldier vs soldier
Speaking of grievances while answering a question about Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Parveen Bakshi, whom he superseded, Gen Rawat said he will look into it if the former brings his grievances to his notice.
General Rawat’s remarks came after Lt Gen Bakshi, while addressing the soldiers of Eastern Command on New Year’s Eve, alleged that a “malicious campaign” was carried out to stop him from becoming the Army Chief.
“If there is anything that needs to be investigated, as I said, if it is brought to my notice, we will look into it,” he said, adding he came to know of Lt Gen Bakshi’s allegations through the media. Gen Rawat said after his name was announced as the new chief, both of them, he and Lt Gen Bakshi, had reached out to each other.
(This report first appeared in DNA)