27 July :With a Parliamentary panel slamming officers for employing soldiers in “demeaning and humiliating” tasks, the govt has said ‘sahayaks’ would not be employed in menial house-hold work and that the Army was issued elaborate instructions to ensure “strict checks” to prevent their misuse.
“Sahayaks (or Batman) will not be employed for menial house-hold work. It is the duty of all officers/junior commissioned officers and commanders in the chain to ensure that strict checks are instituted to prevent misuse of sahayaks and that any violation of existing instructions and guidelines should be dealt with immediately,” Defence Minister A K Antony told Lok Sabha in a statement on Monday.
Antony said the Army was told that under no circumstances should the dignity and self-respect of a soldier be lowered and that sahayaks, being combatant soldiers, should not be employed on demeaning and humiliating tasks.
“It has been stressed that there is an urgent and continuous need to impress upon all concerned that sahayaks being combatant soldiers, under no circumstances are to be employed on a job, which is not in conformity with the dignity and self-respect of a soldier,” Antony said in the Action Taken Report on the 30th and 31st Parliamentary Standing Committee report on his Ministry.
“Any practice that lowers the self-esteem of a soldier is to be abhorred. Formation and Unit Commanders uphold the honour and dignity of job content of the individual soldiers. In this context, it is always ensured and shall continue to be ensured that soldiers are not employed on an demeaning and humiliating tasks,” Antony said.
Stating that “exhaustive instructions regarding appropriate employment of Sahayaks were issued from time to time by Army headquarters, he said the Army, in its letter on 27th July last, said that Batman was a “comrade-in-arms” to officers and JCOs symbolising “trust, respect, warmth, confidence and interdependence, which are the fundamentals of relations between the leaders and the led.”
He noted that a Sahayak was a soldier, who in addition to his duties provided the essential support to authorised officers and JCOs both in peace and war to enable them to fully attend to their assigned duty.
The Batman also provided leaders a direct contact with men and thus enabled officers and JCOs to gain an insight into the state of morale and well being of men, he added.
“The Sahayak will be attached to regular Army units and provided proper living accommodation and messing facilities. The officer to whom Sahayaks are provided will ensure such facilities are arranged,” Antony said.
The Parliamentary Committee had observed that the practice of Batman was prevalent since the British days and that it had learned that numerous jawans were engaged at the residence of senior officers for domestic work and to serve family members of the officers.
It said an officer had admitted before the Committee that jawans were not technically supposed to attend to house-hold duties of officers and that they do so due to their reverence.
The Committee had said it hardly needed to stress that jawans were recruited to serve the nation and not the family of officers, which was demeaning and humiliating.
It took a serious view of the “shameful practice, which should have no place in Independent India” and asked the Defence Ministry to stop the practice, which lowered the self-esteem of jawans, forthwith.
It had also asked the Home Ministry to take similar steps regarding paramilitary organisations to ban the practice of Batman.
The Army letter, quoted by Antony, also admitted the misuse, as reported by the media, and receiving such information from formation headquarters, and hence felt the need to educate officers on utilisation of Sahayaks.
The letter also said professional efficiency of Sahayaks would be maintained through regular military training and through professional promotion courses and exams, and highlighted that Sahayaks would not be used as caddies in golf courses or pickers in tennis courts, unauthorised guards, for retired officers or for separated families of officers.