The support for the Sahayak system weeks comes after some jawans aired their grievances. (File photo)
The Defence Ministry has justified the deployment of Sahayak, or buddies in the Indian Army in operational or field areas, telling parliament that the orderly system enhanced the spirit-de-corps in units and was not expected to have any adverse impact on the morale of the jawan.
Minister of State for Defence Mr Subhash Bhamre said there were exhaustive instructions that require Army officers to ensure that "under no circumstances Sahayaks, being combatant soldiers, are employed on menial tasks".
The government's unequivocal backing for the army's British-era Sahayak system came in the Rajya Sabha during Question Hour on Tuesday, weeks after Army jawans spoke out on social media saying some of their responsibilities include walking the dogs of officers besides helping in household chores.
One jawan had spoken how he was forced to wash clothes. Another, Roy Mathew, who was secretly recorded by media personnel criticising the buddy system, was later found hanging.
Army Chief Bipin Rawat had responded to the videos put out by some jawans, threatened action against those who go public with their grievances and asked them to, instead, make their complaints using internal mechanism.
Counting the advantages of the Sahayak system, the government said they provided essential support to officers "both in peace and war" to enable them to fully attend to their assigned duties. "The buddy also provides an alternate contact with the troops, whereby the officer is made aware of grass root issues, albeit through informal means," Mr Bhamre said.
Neither the Air Force nor the Navy have a Sahayak system.
Central police organisations such as the BSF and CRPF had borrowed the Sahayak system from the Army but the Union Home Ministry scrapped the system on the recommendations of the Sixth Pay Commission in 2008.