Early 2017 witnessed a slew of video messages from Indian Army soldiers, Border Security Force troopers and Central Reserve Police Force personnel expressing grievances at service conditions, food, etc.

In no time these videos went viral, and snowballed into a controversy for the Indian Government. The government, on its part, swung into investigating the charges leveled by these men in uniform, several against their superior officers.

The Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Defence, sought reports from respective service headquarters on the matter, and they were tasked with resolving issues, undertaking suitable remedial measures, and, in general, looking into the welfare of their troops.

General Bipin Rawat’s Historic Step

In view of the mechanisms initiated to address these issues, Chief of Army Staff (COAS), General Bipin Rawat, announced to all ranks on the occasion of Army Day, 15th January, that any soldier with genuine grievances or concerns may directly address it to the chief.

The message evoked mixed feelings, among veterans and serving army men alike.
It was in view of this decision by the Army Chief, on Friday, 27th January 2017, that the Army announced the launch of a mobile number, on which his office could be directly reached via WhatsApp for grievance redressal. The matter again heated up on social media, as people began questioning the viability of such a move.

Sources told Delhi Defence Review, ‘This number will be connected to the Complaint and Advisory Board Cell (CAB Cell) in the Chief of Army Staff’s (COAS) Secretariat at Army Headquarters, and certain safeguards will be in place to maintain the complaints, as and when they come.’

What does CAB do?

CAB is a specialized outfit reporting directly to the COAS. As the name suggests, it is a redressal unit in the COAS secretariat, and looks into all complaints reported to, or received by, the Army Chief’s office. These include matters related to family welfare, complaints from various formations, civilian staff of the army, among other things.

In light of access to social media being freely available to all, and in step with digital media being used for psychological warfare and other insidious uses of the internet, it is not without reason that a digital/ social media medium of communication will be utilized by the office of the Chief, which controls and oversees an army of 1.3 million women and men and their families.

That said, CAB, in our view, is an unprecedented step and deserves to be lauded.

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