Soldier denounces ‘batman’ system, Army says he wasn’t one

New Delhi, March 7 (IANS) Another soldier has taken to social media to complain about the system of ‘batman’ in the Army and what he said was “poor quality food served to the men in uniform”. The Army, however, dismissed his contentions as “baseless”.

Sindhav Jogidas of the Army Medical Corps said he was airing his grievances publicly because his complaints to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Defence Ministry had gone unheeded.

On the other hand, the Army said on Tuesday that Sindhav never served as a ‘sahayak’ or buddy with any officer or Junior Commissioned Officer.

“The operational and professional effectiveness of the Indian Army, which rests on the bedrocks of discipline, trust and espirit de corps, cannot be diluted based on false and non-existent perceived grievances and misdemeanours of a few,” the Army statement added.

Sindhav said: “I apologise to the people of the nation and the government (because) my video will hurt your sentiments. Every Jawan wants the respect of the Army to be high.”

“How long can we tolerate? A lot of wrong things are happening,” he said while speaking in Hindi.

Referring to the ‘batman’ system, also called ‘sahayak’ duty, he said some officers treated soldiers attached to their residences as their servants.

“Jawans have to follow orders because those who speak (against it) are victimised.”

He said he went to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s office and the Defence Ministry to complain and again to the Prime Minister’s Office.

“I did not want the issues related to the Army to come on the social media.

“When the reply came, they slapped a case of disciplinary action against me and there were two Courts of Inquiry. I was harassed for a year but I kept quiet.

“I took leave again and came to Delhi… I went to Sena Bhavan (Army Headquarters) but no one allowed me to go inside. Then I wrote a letter to (Army Chief) General Bipin Rawat but there was no reply.

“At the end, I was given a charge-sheet because I had written against my officers. I have already been punished twice. This time I had to give up 14 days of salary as fine.

“If we refuse any duty or break a rule, we are punished immediately. But when officers break rules, there are no rules or regulations for them,” he said.

The soldier said “because of some officers, the Army is maligned”.

“It is sad that instead of fighting the enemy, we have to fight within the force. It is true that we take salary for our duty but we are giving the most important years of our life to the Army.

“Many brothers are united in this fight and we have been raising our voice time and again.

“But no on listens to us… I want to ask if the government is really unaware of these facts or we are just being ignored.”

The soldier also alleged that the food given to soldiers was of poor quality.

“In many units they send food just for survival — the cheapest vegetables, fruit and worst kind of food is given. But I have no proof, so I will not say much on this.”

In January, another soldier, Lance Naik Yagya Pratap, alleged in a video that soldiers were exploited by officers.

Denying Sindhav Jogidas Lakhubhai’s statement, the Army said he joined the force as a housekeeper and was involved in several incidents of rule violations in his service of three years.

“The individual has never been employed as a ‘buddy’ of any officer or JCO, nor has he ever been asked to perform such duty. His allegations related to this and ill-treatment of jawans by superiors are false and baseless,” the Army said in a statement.

It said that during his posting at the Military Hospital in Ranikhet, Sindhav was late in rejoining duty after taking leave in 2015. He was awarded pay fine for unauthorised absence from duty.

After he applied for premature release, the statement said, the AMC Records advised counselling before a final decision in view of his limited service.

The Army said that after the counselling, Sindhav changed his mind and decided to continue in service. He, however, sought posting to a ‘field’ location.

“… at the Military Hospital in Ranikhet, he refused to obey instructions to clean ‘bed pan’ of a patient in the Intensive Care Unit. The task is a mandated task of his trade of housekeeper,” the statement said.

“For this act of indiscipline, the Sepoy was awarded seven-day imprisonment within the Unit.”

The statement said that while on leave in January 2016, he submitted written complaints to the PMO, Defence Minister and Director General of Medical Services, Army.

“The complaints were independently investigated through a One-Man Inquiry and found baseless. A Staff Court of Inquiry by the Formation HQ also found him blameworthy for violation of chain of command and laid-down chain of correspondence. He was tried summarily for this act of indiscipline and awarded 14-day pay fine,” the Army said.

On his request, the soldier has been posted to a Leh hospital and dispatched for posting on February 27. He is currently on transit to his new place of posting.

The statement, referring to Lance Naik Yagya Pratap, said: “Even in an earlier instance of a jawan putting allegations through a video uploaded on social media, of ill-treatment of buddies, he also was never employed as buddy during his 15-year service.”

Lance Naik Roy Mathew, who criticised the ‘sahayak’ system in a sting video, was found dead in a Maharashtra cantonment barrack on March 3.

The Army said his “suicide” could be the result of events triggered by the sting operation.

–IANS

ao/tsb/dg

Top