Less than a week after an army jawan from Kerala allegedly committed suicide after accusing senior officers of harassment, another soldier took to social media to complain about the system of ‘batman’, or sahayak duty, in the army.
Sindhav Jogidas of the Army Medical Corps also complained about what he said was poor quality food served to the men in uniform.
Referring to ‘sahayak’ duty, Jogidas 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.”
The army, however, dismissed Jogidas’s allegations of ill-treatment, saying he was never employed as a sahayak and was punished thrice for indiscipline in his three years’ service. It said it had investigated the case and the allegations were “false and baseless.”
An army press release said, “The operational and professional effectiveness of the army which rests on discipline and trust cannot be diluted based upon false and non-existent perceived grievances and misdemeanours of a few.”
Jogidas said he was airing his grievances publicly because his complaints to the Prime Minister’s Office and the defence ministry had gone unheeded.
“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,” Jogidas said, speaking in Hindi. “How long can we tolerate? A lot of wrong things are happening.”
On March 3, Lance Naik Roy Mathew, seen criticising the sahayak system in a sting video, was found dead in a barrack in a Maharashtra cantonment. Though the army believes it to be a case of suicide, family members of 33-year-old Mathew said they suspect foul play. They have demanded a probe into the circumstances leading to his death.
The alleged suicide came amid of a spate of allegations of poor working conditions and harassment faced by jawans in the armed forces.
In January, too, another jawan was seen in a video complaining about alleged harassment by superiors. In the video, Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh, posted in 42 Infantry Brigade in Dehradun, said he was being harassed for writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the problems faced by soldiers.
Jogidas said he approached the PMO and the defence ministry to complain because he did not want issues related to the Army to come on 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,” said Jogidas. “I took leave again and came to Delhi... I went to the Sena Bhavan (Army Headquarters) but no one allowed me to go inside. Then I wrote a letter to General Bipin Rawat but there was no reply.”
Jogidas added: “At the end, I was given a chargesheet 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.
In January, General Rawat had warned soldiers against using social media to voice their complaints, saying it could invite punishment as it dents the morale of the force.
“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,” he said.
Jogidas also alleged that the food given to soldiers was of poor quality. “In many units they send food just for survival -- the cheapest vegetables, fruits and worst kind of food is given. But I have no proof, so I will not say much on this.”
In January, BSF jawan Tej Bahadur Yadav too complained about the poor quality of food . In a video that went viral , Yadav, deployed along the Indo-Pakistan border in Jammu and Kashmir, alleged that troops were served bad quality food and even had to manage with an “empty stomach” sometimes.
With IANS inputs