NEW DELHI – Days after an Indian solider criticized the army and government in a series of videos on social media, army chief General Bipin Rawat has warned that army personnel who do not use “proper, specified channels” to air their grievances would be liable to be punished.
“Proper channels are in place for jawans to put across their grievances…if they aren’t satisfied with action taken, they can contact me directly,” General Rawat said during an address on Army Day on Sunday.
“You will be found guilty for any action you take outside these channels and will also be liable for punishment,” the Times of India quoted the army chief as saying.
Rawat first talked about the grievances issue highlighted by a jawan, Lance Naik Yagya Pratap Singh, who posted a video on social media criticizing the use of soldiers as ‘sahayaks’ or ‘buddy’.
“I had written an application to the PM in which I said that soldiers, who act as sahayaks, should not be made to polish shoes of officers,” said Singh, who serves with the 42 Infantry Brigade in Dehradun. He alleged harassment by superiors for writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi about these problems.
Last week, Gen Rawat said the army, on its part, had already asked the government to examine whether “non-combatants” should replace soldiers as ‘sahayaks’ in peace-time locations, while pressing for the system to continue in field and forward areas.
On Army Day, the general said the use of social media to highlight an issue could have deleterious effect on “brave soldiers guarding India’s borders.”
Last week, Tej Bahadur Yadav, a soldier serving in the 29th Battalion of the Border Security Force (BSF), had released a series of videos on social media citing ‘corruption’ in the Indian army as the reason his battalion receives substandard food and experiences frequent hunger.
Standing near snow-covered mountains, Yadav claims in the video: “We don’t want to blame the government because it does send us the food. However, it is all sold off in the markets before it gets to us.”
“A lot of times we go to sleep hungry,” the soldier adds, saying their breakfast consists of a “burnt paratha” with tea, and tasteless lentils for lunch and dinner.
Soon after the video went viral on social media, the BSF trooper went missing.
Close on the heels of Yadav’s revelations about the way soldiers are treated at the border, a CRPF constable also posted at Mount Abu alleged disparity in service conditions among security forces.
A video that surfaced on Wednesday shows the constable, Jeet Singh from Sahjua Thok village in Mathura district, asking Prime Minister Narendra Modi to resolve the matter at the earliest.
“Those with the armed forces avail of medical and canteen facilities, besides other welfare schemes, but nothing of the sort is provided to CRPF personnel. After retirement, we are not given ex-servicemen quota benefits that could help us bag good jobs,” Singh laments in the video.
Even teachers at government schools draw better salaries and get enough holidays, the constable alleges, questioning whether CRPF personnel do not “deserve” such benefits. Urging the Prime Minister to end these disparities, the constable exhorts the public to make his video go viral – so it reaches people who matter.
Addressing the soldiers on Army Day, Gen. Rawat said using social media to air grievances isn’t ideal. “It can be a ‘two-sided’ weapon which can be used favorably but also has ‘a detrimental effect’,” he added.
“The Army already has an ‘excellent’ grievances redressal system that will now be topped by his ‘suggestions-cum-grievances’ boxes,” the new army chief further said.
Anyone, irrespective of rank or service, can use this mechanism to write directly to him, he announced.
Assuring full confidentiality, he said the name of the soldier concerned will be deleted before any action is taken.