New Delhi: Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said on Friday that soldiers must raise their complaints internally and whoever has any complaint can also tell him directly.
Apart from officials, many army veterans, who had been a part of several important operations in India and abroad, opined that despite having a systematic redressal mechanism, Gen Rawat was left with little choice but to take up the issue in a press conference.
"Besides, other issues, the army chief was compelled to take up the issue of redressal of grievances on priority due to the recent videos posted on social media by BSF, CRPF, and other security forces’ jawans. Otherwise, there already exists a well-organized grievance redressal system within the defence services. Both home and defence ministries have taken a strong cognisance of this issue of airing grievances in public, which is against the service rules. If these type of incidents keep happening, it could pose a serious security threat," a Ministry of Defence official said on condition of anonymity.
Does army really have a grievance redressal system?
As the army chief on Friday stressed on grievance redressal mechanism and urged jawans to use suggestion and grievance boxes to register their complaints, one may wonder whether any redressal mechanism is really functional in the army or not.
"In the army, there is a systematic way of redressing grievances and complaints, and it has been in existence almost for the last 350 years when the British conceived army. There is a chain of command laid down in the army to redress grievances and complaints. Had there been so much grievances among forces in the way media is showing, wars couldn’t have been fought and won," said army veteran and defence analyst Brig (retd) Narendar Kumar.
"Grievances are recorded in Sainik Sammelan book in detail and action taken thereafter. Besides, every day after roll-call grievances, if any, are recorded without questioning the complainant. If a jawan complains to his company commander and not heard, he can approach JCO and even thereafter if it remains unheard, strict action is taken against the officer. There is a systematic process. Moreover, politicians, bureaucrats, and media should stay out of it. Grievances of a jawan can only be solved internally. After all, it’s the jawan and the officer who go to war and not the others," he said.
Can airing grievances in public lead to anarchy?
Defence experts opined that airing of grievances in public would definitely lead to anarchy in the system. Besides, discipline, which is sacrosanct, the bonding within the armed forces is strong and doesn’t require external intervention to solve issues and grievances.
"Forget going public for redressal, the internal mechanism is so strong that one need not even approach commanding officer. Wars are not fought with weak systems. There are SOPs (standard operating procedures), laid down rules and high level of grievance redressal mechanism. Outside intervention is not needed. Besides, discipline, it’s the brotherhood that binds the entire force in one fabric. During operations, there is no jawans, no officers – they are all equal. In my three decades of service as an officer, I have spent 20 years with the jawans on field eating the same food that they do, sharing the same space they live," said defence and security affairs analyst Col (retd) Jaibans Singh, who had been a part of military operations in Sri Lanka, Jammu and Kashmir and the North East.
"A fractured army can’t fight a battle. Soldiering is a ruthless business. A soldier has to face rigours of weather, human necessities, enemy, etc. My commander Brig FFC Balsara used to say –‘don’t mollycoddle men. In times of operations, you have to lead with ruthless streak’. Going public with internal grievances will lead to anarchy—whether it’s army or central paramilitary forces," said Kumar.
Hobnobbing with social media – a threat to security
General Rawat also stressed on the need to counter the "enemy who will try tactics to destroy India's secular fabric".
Experts feel that airing grievances outside the system or on social media may lead to rumour mongering and cause a serious threat to national security. It can give the enemy an upper hand.
"As a soldier, I was trained to starve and maintain combat worthiness in operations. That’s the spirit each and every army personnel has within him. There are serious repercussions if a jawan airs his grievances on social media. Terrorists and enemy will trap the bad hat and use him to meet their purpose. It’s a major security risk and can be disastrous," said Kumar, who had been a part of major military operations in Jaffna (Sri Lanka), Jammu and Kashmir and north Africa.
Singh had a word if caution against the use of social media.
"Now-a-days whoever feels use social media either to slam government or say irrelevant things. In army such things are not prevalent and if an army personnel resorts to social media, it’s a serious security breach. Strict action should be initiated against those breaching the law. Army can’t be politicised," the former colonel said.
Updated Date: Jan 13, 2017 22:42:14 IST