The government on Tuesday evaded a direct response on scrapping of the 'Sahayak' system in the Indian Army but Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre told the Rajya Sabha that they were provided to combatant soldiers for support.
In reply to a question by Meghalaya MP Wansuk Syiem on scrapping the system of appointing orderlies, Bhamre did not specify whether the government had any plans for continuing the practice or otherwise.
The MP asked whether scrapping the post of orderlies and inducting them into frontline duties would bolster the morale of these soldiers, and if committees headed by two Generals suggested renaming the orderlies as Sahayaks or to abolish the post and hire civilians instead.
Bhamre, however, gave details of the system and said: "Sahayaks (orderlies) are combatant soldiers and provide support to officers and JCOs in the Army when serving with units or HQ functioning on War Establishments."
The minister said there is no separate category of Sahayaks.
"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 authorised officers and JCOs, both in peace and war to enable them to fully attend to their assigned duty," the minister added.
"During operations in the field areas, an officer or 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 i.e. mental, physical and moral," he said.
The minister also clarified that the nomenclature was changed from 'orderly' to 'Sahayak' in 1983 based on the directions of then Army Chief, when combatants were entrusted the responsibility of supporting the officers, adding that the Indian Navy and Indian Air Force did not have the system.
Grievances have been aired recently about the Sahayak system in the Army by some soldiers.
Earlier this month, Lance Naik Roy Mathew, a soldier who was seen criticising the 'Sahayak' system in a sting video, was found dead in a barrack in a Maharashtra cantonment on March 3.
Two more soldiers -- Sepoy Sindhav Jogidas Lakhubhai of the Army Medical Corps, and Lance Naik Yagya Pratap -- have earlier taken to the social media to attack the Sahayak system.
The Army has said both of them were never assigned any Sahayak duties.
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