This is with response to the letter by Major J. Sherry (March 30). I was in the Air Force and was once admitted to the military hospital for an eye injury. A jawan who was in the same ward appeared fit and healthy. I asked him, after a couple of days, why the hospital did not discharge him. He said innocently that although he was fit to be discharged, he had been given the duty of fetching milk for the family of the colonel (eye surgeon) every morning. He would be discharged after the colonel saheb got a sahayak.
While there are no sahayaks in the Air Force, scenes of airmen driving the wives of their officers to beauty parlours, or their children/relatives for shopping are common. The soldiers don’t complain because they are poor, underpaid, overburdened, enrolled as teenagers and live in complete isolation. Officers often play foul if the jawans don’t obey them.
I am a sailor with the Indian Navy, presently attached to the Army. Sahayaks have to obey not only the officers to whom they are attached but their entire families. What kind of work they do is better left unsaid. All army personnel are government servants; some of them should not be made personal servants of officers. As for those who support the Sahayak system (including those who argue that sahayaks are like family members), I have a question: will they or their family members do for the sahayak what he does for them — even for a day?
Upender K. Pandey,