Is journalism worth a soldier’s life?

In a tragic turn of events a soldier committed suicide when he became a target of a “string operation” carried out by a The Quint journalist.

Army jawan/sahayak Lance-Naik Roy Mathew was secretly videotaped by a The Quint journalist named Poonam Agarwal, talking about the menial jobs the “sahayaks” have to perform for the officers they’re assigned to. These jobs may including walking dogs, dropping kids to school, taking care of the garden and running errands that are not an official part of their duties.

Assigning sahayaks to higher ranked army officers is a British-era practice the army has carried on despite attracting criticism.

According to the phone calls made by Mathew to his wife, he was afraid that he might lose his job and there might even be a court martial on him for criticizing his seniors. He first disappeared and then later was found hanging from a ceiling of a room.

In the video, which is no longer available, Lance-Naik Mathew, though his face is blurred, could be heard answering to various questions posed by Poonam Agarwal, and while answering to questions he admitted that work that is not part of their jobs is done by the sahayaks (buddies). He wasn’t complaining, he was just starting it as a fact. The objective was to show how these soldiers are exploited by their superiors simply because there is no way to refuse.

The problem with the video was that Mathew was easily recognizable to people who knew him. He could be recognized by his voice, and even by his clothes. No special attempt was made to hide his identity. They just followed a simple procedure that would make his face unrecognizable to people who wouldn’t know him, but people who knew him would immediately recognize him.

Ever since the tragic incident came to light the way such sting operations are carried out is being questioned. Mathew was not a criminal. He was simply having a conversation as the journalist had befriended him without telling him for what purpose he was being talked to. This is fraud, especially when the person being featured in the video is an innocent citizen and hasn’t been informed what’s going on. Journalist Shiv Aroor has rightly termed this as near murder.

It’s public knowledge that soldiers of lower ranks are often expected to perform domestic duties for their superiors. This aspect of the army needs to be investigated.

If 70% of Indians are still paying bribes, the entire blame doesn’t lie on Modi

It’s obvious that when you promise certain things during your election campaigns and then somehow if these promises are not fulfilled, or if somehow it can be proven that they haven’t been fulfilled, your opponents are bound to bring them up at every opportunity.

This Quartz article, for example, talks about a Transparency International report that has found that nearly 7 in 10 Indians have to pay a bribe to get even basic jobs such as admission in government-run schools and availing hospital services done.

Of course the article compares the findings of the report with Modi’s claims that he is fighting corruption with all his might.

First, Transparency International isn’t an unbiased organisation. Second, even if this number is correct, we must remember what a system Modi has inherited. The supernova of corruption that had been created in the past 70 years cannot be controlled within a couple of years. Every system, every institution has been corrupted, including bureaucracy and judiciary.

Even the BJP itself is a part of this corrupt ecosystem.

This is the reason Modi isn’t attacking the corrupt directly. It will be of no use. He is trying to create a system where it may become difficult to follow corrupt practices. He is digitizing as many government procedures as possible. He is encouraging the poor to open bank accounts so that financial help can be sent to them directly. He is encouraging people to own mobile phones to stay informed. He is computerizing the attendance system so that babus are forced to come everyday and stay in the office. He is eliminating the paper work.

Establishing systems that thwart corruption are much better than attacking individuals.

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