The Sahayaks in the Army are combatants and exhaustive instructions were issued to not employ them for menial tasks which are not in conformity with dignity of a soldier, the government told the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday. The assertion by the government comes in the backdrop of raging controversy over use of ‘Sahayaks’ or helpers — by some Army officers as their servants. At the same time, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre, replying to a question, said the Sahayaks provide “essential support” to the officers which 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.
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 that he was made to do household chores of superior officers, went viral. Days later, a sepoy also posted an online a video criticising the Sahayak or buddy system and accused the senior officers of treating them as slaves.
Bhamre said a Sahayak has clearly defined military duties and forms an integral part of the organisation 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.