Thursday, August 31, 2017

“Sahayak” – a Colonial “Relic” of the Raj

Before 1947 – the British ruled India. 

Hence – British Officers – Civil, Police and Military – considered themselves are “Rulers” – and – British Officers treated the Indian Civilian Employees and Soldiers serving under them as their “Subjects”. 

I read somewhere that British Officers were called “Laat Sahab” (Indianised Version of “Lord Officer”

Since they were de facto “Lords” – British Officers – Civil, Police and Military – were given subordinate staff for their personal use. 

This personal staff (comprising Indian “subjects”) were called by various names in different civil services – “Orderly” “Attendant” “Bungalow Peon” Telephone Attendant cum Dak Khalasis (TADK)” “Household Staff” etc

A British Army Officer was provided a Soldier as a “Batman” 

Whatever the names given to the personal staff – they were basically personal servants of the civil, police and military officers.

(However – there was no such practice in the Navy and Air Force – probably because of their more egalitarian culture – though Admirals/Captains were provided Retinue/Stewards at Sea) 

India became independent in 1947 – but these “imperialistic” colonial practices of the British Raj continued – some even till today. 

(The Indian Army derived most of its customs and traditions from the British Army. I wonder whether the British Army still has the system of providing a “Batman” to an Officer)

This morning – I read news items about Army Structural Reforms and Chairman Railway Board ordering withdrawal of railwaymen engaged by officers as domestic staff at their residences

This reminded me of a spoof I had written a few years ago...

(aka “Batman” aka “Orderly” aka “Attendant” aka “Runner”)
A Fictional Spoof

(aka “Batman” aka “Orderly” aka “Attendant” aka “Runner”)

The CTC (Cost To Company) of an Army Officer is much higher than his equivalent Navy or Air Force Officer.

In addition to the pay and perks (which are roughly the same) 
 an Army Officer gets another “perk” called a “Sahayak” (aka “Batman” or “Orderly”).

Long back
 I was posted as faculty in a tri-service training institution.

On the faculty 
 there were officers of the Army, Navy and Air Force – and all officers did exactly the same job.

We were all instructors 
 and – whether you were in the Army, Navy or Air Force – the job was identical – to teach.

– only the Army Officers had “Sahayaks”.

The presence of 
“Sahayaks” was starkly evident in the evenings  when we all went for long walks.

I had a pet dog.

My neighbour was a senior Air Force Officer 
– a Group Captain – who also had a pet dog.

We used to personally take our dogs for a walk in the evenings (and in the mornings too).

A number of Army Officers had pet dogs too.

But very few Army Officers would take their dogs for a walk. 

“Dogwalking” was the “duty” of the “Sahayak”.

 walking the Sahib’s dog was the Sahayak’s job.

 it was “below the dignity” for an Army Officer to take his dog for a walk.

I noticed that the practice of 
“Sahayaks” walking Officers’ Dogs was quite a common sight in Army cantonments and tri-service institutions.

In fact 
 some of my Army friends used to leave their pet dogs with their Sahayaks when they went home on leave – or went outstation on courses.

One Army officer’s wife even commented that looking after their dog was the Sahayak’s job.

– I observed that what she said was true – the “Sahayak” took full care of the dog – the dog’s food, the dog’s walks, the dog’s grooming, bath, everything...

In fact 
 the “Sahayak” was the de facto “Master” of the officer’s pet dog.

Every time a discussion on “sahayaks” comes up 
 most Army Officers are quick to defend this ancient practice saying that Sahayaks are required for Officers in the “field”.


Army Officers may require Soldiers as “Sahayaks” in the “Field”.

– how can you justify Soldiers being deputed as “Sahayaks in Peacetime Family Stations...?

Why must only Army Officers get “sahayaks” especially in inter-service establishments 
 where you have Navy and Air Force Officers doing exactly the same work as Army Officers...?

What rankles even more in inter-service training institutions is when some resourceful “student officers” from the Army manage to get their “Sahayaks” and flaunt them in front of senior Navy and Air Force Officers on the Staff. 

Is there any need for providing “Sahayaks” to Army Officers working in Headquarters in New Delhi – when their Navy and Air Force counterparts are able to do the same work without the assistance of “Sahayaks”. 


What is the genesis of this practice...? 

Why does an Army Officer need a “sahayak”...?

An old-timer Army Veteran once told me that a 
sahayak (batman) is not a private servant and he is not provided to an Army Officer to perform the duties of a domestic help.

sahayak is not a domestic orderly.

sahayak or batman is a combat soldier.

(The word “batman” is short form of “battle-man”)

The batman is actually a “runner” who always accompanies the officer in battle 
 and his primary duty in combat operations is to convey the orders of the officer to his subordinates – particularly when the wireless is not functioning.

Besides his primary task as a “runner
  the sahayak or batman is supposed to look after the officer’s needs, maintain his equipment and uniform, act as a bodyguard and protect the officer  and generally be his “buddy” – while the officer is engaged in combat operations.

 the batman was the officer’s “battle-man” – his buddy in combat  and  there was no question of a batman being employed on any nature of domestic work  especially in peacetime family stations and in the homes of officers.

This is what the old-timer told me.

 the perception created in the minds of people is quite different.

It may not be entirely correct 
 but unfortunately  the general impression today is that  the sahayak or batman is a personal servant of the Army Officer and his Family.

Again I would like to say
  this may not be a correct picture.

But then 
 what will be the perception created in the minds of people when they observe Army Officers using their sahayaks to take their dogs for walks – or send them to the market for shopping – and to perform various types of domestic workmenial jobs and household chores...?

This is visible to everyone in peacetime stations and cantonments 
– sometimes even in civilian areas where Army Officers live.

A recently Retired Army Officer’s Wife told me that the one thing she misses the most is her “sahayak”.

Long back 
– I heard a bizarre story which may be apocryphal.

A “resourceful” Army Officer who was posted to a non-family field area “managed” to arrange a “sahayak” for his wife who was living in separated married quarters in a peace station.

The irony was that the smart “sahayak” turned out to be even more “resourceful” and was having a rolicking affair with the officer’s wife 
 stealing her affections – while the officer was slogging it out in the field.

The story may be apocryphal 
– but – it imparts a lesson – that  it can be hazardous to let a sahayak get too intimate with families  especially wives and daughters.

With the advent of Women Officers in the Army 
– I wonder if they too are provided male sahayaks.

– are Lady Army Officers provided female attendants...?

Do some resourceful Senior Army Officers “manage” to get uniformed 
sahayaks even after they retire from the Army...?

I do not think it is permitted 
 but someone once mentioned that some resourceful senior Army Officers do “manage” to get sahayaks even after retirement.

Another argument Army Officers use to justify the institution of sahayak is that even other Civilian Officers (IAS, IPS, Railways, PSUs, etc) have various government employees deputed as “attendants” in their homes for similar domestic duties. 

Two wrongs dont make a right

Does citing examples of Police/Civilian Officers misusing attendants” justify Army Officers misusing sahayaks...?

I wonder whether other modern Armies still provide “sahayaks” (batmen) to Officers...?

Do Civil-Service Officers, Diplomatic Officers and Police Officers of modern nations get “attendants” for their domestic work...?

Is it true that 
even Diplomats and IFS Officers are entitled to take “attendants” and servants on postings abroad...?

 it seems that we still remain a feudal society with the same old colonial culture  and  these “Relics of the Raj” are not going to go away in a hurry.

Is it possible to get rid of this colonial feudal practice of sahayaks in the Army and attendants in the Civil/Police Services...? 

Or – in the name of jointmanship – will this facility of sahayaksbe extended to Navy and Air Force Officers too...?

One can argue that when almost everyone at Officer Level 
 most Army Officers – and most Civilian/Police Officers – when all of them get sahayaks” or “attendants”  why leave out only the Navy and Air Force Officers...?

 if the “powers-that-be want to continue providing Sahayaks/Attendants to Army/Police/Civilian Officers – then – will they consider providing “sahayaks” to Navy and Air Force Officers too...?

Copyright © Vikram Karve
1. If you share this post, please give due credit to the author Vikram Karve
2. Please DO NOT PLAGIARIZE. Please DO NOT Cut/Copy/Paste this post
© vikram karve., all rights reserved.

1. This story is a fictional humorous spoof, satire, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the stories are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
No part of this Blog may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical including photocopying or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the Blog Author Vikram Karve who holds the copyright.

Copyright © Vikram Karve (All Rights Reserved)
© vikram karve., all rights reserved. 

This is a revised repost of my fictional spoof posted online earlier at urls:  and  and and and etc

No comments: