A lot has been said about abolition of the system of orderlies or ‘sahayaks’ in the Indian Army in the recent days. Many have pointed out the colonial and feudal slant of the concept and have also stated that such system exists only in the Indian sub-continent, that is, in the armies of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh primarily.
This thought (of the system being of this sub-continent alone) is not correct in its entirety since the system is very much in place in other countries too, albeit in a different format.
While talking about the US Army, Lt Col P Crocker (Retired) in his book “Army Officers’ Guide” says, and I quote :
“In the past, some soldiers in addition to their regular duties could also work, if willing to do so, as personal servants to officers and their families. In the Army the custom has always been that such work was entirely voluntary, with the officer compensating the soldier for his work. Historically, these men were known as orderlies or strikers. Some soldiers desired such jobs to supplement their service pay, just as some soldiers of this period take off-duty jobs called “moonlighting”. By custom and official restrictions, the use of soldiers as servants of officers and their families in garrison assignments has terminated except for some senior officers and for special reasons in each case. However, for units in the field, in training or combat, an officer may be assigned a soldier orderly for personal services so the officer can devote maximum time to the responsibilities of command. Many times it is the driver of the vehicle assigned to the officer who performs such personal services. "
Contrary to popular perception, the recommendations of Parliamentary Committees are not binding on the govt or the cabinet. Why isn't anyone talking of those recommendations which were out & out pro-defence personnel but are simply resting on paper without being implemented ?. The issue of Sahayaks (and Suraksha Sahayaks in the CPOs) in my humble opinion is not as pertinent as is being made to look. In fact, it was surprising that it became a part of the pay commission report while dealing with the CPOs. Of course combatants should not be employed on menial tasks but if misuse of manpower is to be addressed, it should be addressed in every govt service and not just the uniformed services.