Following the posting of videos in the social media by two BSF, CRPF jawans and an army Lance Naik alleging lack of welfare measures and abuse, the Indian Army Chief Gen Bipin Rawat here today said that a new grievance redressal mechanism has been set up wherein his troops can reach him directly to voice their concerns.
Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh, who worked as a sahayak, has alleged in his video that he was made to polish shoes. The army on the other hand asserts that the sahayak or ‘buddy system’, meaning pairing of two soldiers, has been established to ensure better synergy during operations and constant communication during peacetime for addressing each other’s grievances.
“The orders for setting up the Chief of Army Staff suggestions cum grievances box was issued today by the army headquarters. We will follow suite with such boxes at the command headquarters and lower levels,” said the Army Chief.
The reason he gave to setting up this new mechanism is, “It is important for me to get a feel of the soldiers as to what conditions they operate in. It is a way to ensure that the efficiency and the health of the army are at the highest levels. So want to ensure that the ranks and files have confidence in the senior leadership.”
He explained that a soldier of any rank can use this mechanism so that his grievances can reach directly to the top.
“We would like to highlight that a soldier should address his grievance with his name and his identity will not be revealed. We would like people to come to us, rather than resort to social media or other means. Let troops have confidence in the senior leadership that their grievances will be addressed and they will get appropriate responses. If they are still dissatisfied they can use other means,” said Gen Rawat.
He asserted that the social media is a two sided weapon. “It can be used effectively, but be detrimental as well,” he said.
Gen Rawat explained that yesterday on social media a jawan from the Rajput Regiment, Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh voiced his grievance that he didn’t like the duties performed by a sahayak. The term sahayak means ‘buddy’ related to the ‘buddy system’ which in army parlance means pairing of two soldiers during operations and peace-time postings. It is a system which ensures that the two take care of each other during war and peace.
“The concept behind this system is when going for an operation, while one soldier moves the other will fire in support. Every army officer has a buddy who is a sahayak.
" He takes care of the officer and the officer takes care of the buddy. The same buddy handles the radio set. In peace stations, a buddy helps an officer with his daily duties such as waking him up for PT (physical training),” he said.
Gen Rawat said Singh has never been a buddy and his trade is a driver. “All that he should have done is talk to a senior officer and come out with his grievances, but the manner in which he came out and spoke of it is not a just method,” said the army chief.
A video went viral on social media yesterday which showed Singh alleging "abuse" by his senior officers who threatened him that he would lose his job if he did not follow their orders which included polishing their shoes.
Gen Rawat, however, said currently there is no breakdown of communication at the lower level. “But if jawans feel their grievances not addressed then we will bring better mechanisms,”he said, asserting that the buddy system has been established to ensure constant communication between soldiers paired with each other and it should remain.
The issue of the buddy or sahayak system has been raised with Parliament. The army is looking at having different parameters for field and peace.
Defending the system, he said, “What we recommend is if there is a need to do away with the buddy system, then there is a need for it in the field and during peace locations can have civilians instead. But when the army mobilises for war, then one needs to pick up a buddy whom one knows. So it is good to have a buddy acquainted with you.” Here is what he said at the press conference:
* “This press conference, which is held on eve of the Army Day, is very relevant to us, as I would like to reach every jawan through you (media). We are one team and we work as one force to ensure India is secure and peaceful.”
* “Through the media, I wish to reach out to the rank and file of the Army. Whatever complaint they should have, they can address it through the excellent grievance redressal mechanism we have.”
* “We have to be concerned about proxy war and terror that are affecting secular fabric of our nation.”
* “The situation in Jammu and Kashmir had been brought under control with synergised efforts of security forces.’”
* “Ceasefire violations have come down. However, if the numbers go up, the army will opt for such surgical strike measures.”
* “There is a saying that offence is the best defence. We are committed to peace and tranquillity and to keep it there has to be an element of offence in our defence.”
* “If Lt Gen P Bakshi comes to me with formal information, I will help him and probe, Gen Rawat on Eastern Commander’s accusation that people within the army were maligning him.”