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Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Orderly is not a Personal Servant * 67

The British introduced the Articles of war in India and laid the foundation of the modern Indian army. This army over a period of 250 years earned a name for itself as a formidable fighting force. Its prowess is appreciated from China( Boxer rebellion) to the battles of the Second World War and the conquest of East Pakistan.
The British also ingrained into the Indian army the culture of the orderly or in Indian terminology ' Sahayak'. The British left India but the culture of the orderly got more deeply entrenched. The orderly became like a personal servant of the officer and was used for unsoldierly work like taking the dogs for a run, washing clothes, looking after the personal needs of the wife and children as well as cleaning the car and buying vegetables.
The British army did away with the concept of the orderly as in a modern army classes cannot be allowed to exist. I am told even the Pakistan army did away with the concept of the orderly in 2004. In the Indian army however it got more deeply entrenched and the army began to earmark some 30,000 soldiers for orderly duties.
The officers brought up in a feudal atmosphere started enjoying the privilege of the orderly and even used the men for menial tasks. But what was acceptable at the turn of the century is not acceptable now with greater education and aspirations. A modern army cannot have a concept of a colonial or imperial army by creating a class of the 'Burra Sahib'. The men who form a bulk of the fighting force do not accept this sort of class division.
The Indian army thus created two classes. An elitist officer class and a common soldier. The sad part is that even rations for the soldier was different from the officer. Independent India continued with this anomaly.
This was bound to explode and the class pretensions of the army had to come crashing down. This is the result of the Field Army regiment soldiers having a fist fight with the officers at Nyomi in Ladakh , just 23 km from the China border. The immediate cause of the incident is not important, what is important that class and elitist attitudes had to have a repercussion. As per last reports 3 Army Majors were on the run and teh Commanding Officer is in hospital with a few fractures.
This is a dangerous portend for a fighting force and with China breathing down the neck, the Indian army can ill afford an officer-men divide. No army can fight in such an environment. it is about time the army woke up and lived up to its traditions of a great fighting force. The culture of the orderly needs to be consigned to the dust bin of history. One wonders with the 21st century on us, whether the army is too late in reacting and the damage may be already irreparable.