It's high time we stopped over glorifying the military in India. Yes, they risk their lives while doing their job. But so do others in thousands of equally important professions. Not everyone joins the armed forces out of patriotism either. Moreover, a soldier is trained to follow orders. They have little choice over whether or not they think their actions have any meaning.

It's high time we stopped over glorifying the military in India. Yes, they risk their lives while doing their job. But so do others in thousands of equally important professions. Not everyone joins the armed forces out of patriotism either. Moreover, a soldier is trained to follow orders. They have little choice over whether or not they think their actions have any meaning.

Can We Please Stop Over Glorifying “Our Soldiers”?

I’m getting sick of the glorification of the Indian army on social media and in the newspapers. Every time there’s even the slightest deviation from the nationalistic narration, “soldier’s lives” are brought into the discussion. Comments like:

“Soldiers are dying! And you’re sitting in an armchair making comments”.

“Soldiers are dying. And you care about Pakistani actors!”

So let me say this. Yes, soldiers are dying. So? Let’s run through a few things here shall we?

My Contribution – How about Taxes?

I’m often asked “What are you doing for your country?” Well, I pay my fucking taxes for a start. You think soldiers fight for free? And if you think paying taxes is no big deal, consider this:

Only 1% – ONE percent – of India actually pays taxes. Last week, I got a “Bronze” certificate from the Government, thanking me for contributing to the nation. Bronze in this case means taxes between 1 lakh to 10 lakh.

Certificate of Appreciation for paying taxes

Out of that 1% of taxpayers, only five percent will get a certificate. So that means I pay more taxes than 99.95% of the country.

This easily makes me more valuable than almost anyone else in the nation. I am literally paying for your security. Because the soldiers are being paid with my money.

Pure statistics dictate that most likely, those who are shouting “Soldiers are dying!” pay 0 income taxes. Fine, soldiers are dying. So what the fuck are you doing about it? You think soldiers give a damn about your nationalistic chest beating? My taxes buy them weapons to fight with. My taxes buy them food. My taxes buy them shelter and equipment.

What do you do, oh Internet warrior who (probably) doesn’t pay taxes?

Soldiers Don’t Fight for our Freedom

A soldier is a machine. Trained to follow orders. If tomorrow a soldier receives instructions to slaughter civilians, then he/she will carry them out. The world is full of nations that have a strong military, and are not free. A soldier does not bring us freedom. Remember that.

We get freedom from a number of links in a chain. The judges, the politicians (yes, the politicians!), civil society who fights human rights abuses and most of all, the Constitution. A soldier is just ONE link in a chain that allows us to have freedom. In a dangerous environment, the army defends us from hostile forces.

That by itself does not bring us freedom. Freedom requires a huge number of variables. To say that soldiers alone guarantee our freedoms is an outright lie.

Most Soldiers don’t Join the Army for Patriotic Reasons

Sorry to break this to you, but most people don’t join the military out of patriotism. But I make no judgments. It’s perfectly fine to choose the armed forces for the quality of life they provide. Not just the salary, but the overall package. The cleanliness. The discipline. The subsidized housing and food. And many other perks. My wife is the daughter of army officer, and she often talks about how nice the environment was compared to the disordered neighborhoods most of us have to live in.

Does it help to be patriotic? I’m sure it does. Does it mean you have to be a soldier to prove your patriotic credentials? No.

Other Professions have a High Risk of Dying as Well

Let’s spare a thought for the people who clean our drains, and who die in alarming numbers every day throughout the country. If you think “soldiers are dying” to keep us safe, I have never ever heard of sanitation workers who die to keep us clean.

This means we’re not actually concerned about the loss of life. Not in the least. When it comes to high risks of dying, soldiers have plenty of company including farmers, construction workers, search and rescue operators, and police officers. If only we took farmer’s deaths as seriously as we took the deaths of soldiers. Yet, we only pay lip service to farmers. I have never heard of anyone saying “Farmers are dying. And you’re wasting time with this trivial issue!”.

The fact of the matter is that there are lots of risky professions. Most of them don’t have the same perks of the armed forces. And we Indians have a pretty cavalier attitude towards death in any case. We can’t suddenly start harping about the value of life, just to make a point.

It’s time we stopped over-glorifying the armed forces. They are trained to follow orders and do their job. It’s an important job, yes. It’s a risky job, yes. Yes, we need to thank them. Just like we need to thank farmers and sewage cleaners. Saying “Soldiers are dying” is just a lazy attempt to shut down logical reasoning with an emotion based appeal.

Sorry, but that won’t work on me.

What do you think of this post?
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Comments

  1. When workers die in drains..we acknowledge the fact….when soldiers die…we acknowledge the fact..the difference is that soldiers join the armed forces..fully knowing that they might die..those who die in drains…did not think that they would die in a drain when they opted for the job..and it’s illegal now for them to enter a sewer..

    Reply

    • In reply to tusna

      Drain cleaners surely know better than anyone else, the risks of their profession. They know full well that there’s a chance of dying. Just like firemen. Or policemen.

      Reply

  2. Sir,

    Yet another awesome article.

    I want to add: If we bring in robot armies, will the chest thumping reduce? Of course not! The same “nationalists” will thump their chests even harder if anything. “So much money is spent by the government and by us to create these robots and train them, and you speak of trivial issues like this!?” However their names will be in the long list of tax evaders, Panama Papers, Essar Tapes, etc, whilst trying to coverup for it by bringing up the issue of “nationalism” as if they’re the trademark owners of a brand.

    OTOH only lip service is given to farmers who are facing hell on earth due to the negligence of governments. To never say anything about sanitary workers and cops! If anything, these “nationalists” were recently mocking Hemant Karkare’s martyrdom. A disgrace to “nationalism” if such a deranged concept even exists!

    Thanks.

    Reply

  3. Nitin Joshi says:

    Dear Bhagwad,
    1. Let me start by refuting your point that a soldier is a machine. You obviously have not spent enough time with any soldier or known enough soldiers otherwise you would not have made such a statement. This is a very uneducated and I would say an irresponsible statement. Soldiers are humans too (Difficult to believe?) and experience the whole range of emotions that any human being does. They perform their duties not in the absence of but in spite of those emotions which includes missing a near and dear one or an important family occasion. I know this because I was in the army and so was my father. Naturally we have many friends in the forces and we are by no means machines.
    2. Yes a soldier is just ONE link in the chain that provides us our freedom. However this link is handed over the raw end of the deal more often than any other link especially in matters of pay and protocol. Why? And why is it that the armed forces are called in to handle every situation from disaster rescue to organizing commonwealth games in spite of the fact that so many other government bodies exist?
    3. So, you pay taxes. Great. Soldiers pay taxes too. (You didn’t know that? Most people don’t.)
    4. You say that your taxes buy the soldiers weapons and equipment. When that nation asks soldiers to fight for it, weapons, equipment, food and medicines are not a favor but the right of the soldiers.
    5. If soldiers are being paid by your money, their blood and sacrifice is paying for your freedoms. (Including the freedom to write such articles.) What price tag are you putting on the blood of a human being and what price tag are you putting on your own freedom?
    6. You said that soldiers don’t fight for our freedom. A soldier fights for the honor of his unit and regiment. In the process he defends the freedom of the nation. Why do we need the izzat of the unit and regiment? Please suggest some other thing to motivate a person to go into a combat situation.
    7. Most soldiers do not join the army for patriotic reasons – Very true. I have been part of recruitment rallies and know how true this is. But this does not take away from the fact that when the time comes and the situation demands, a soldier goes through and danger including danger to his own life. No soldier will ever shy from his duty even at the peril of his life whatever the reason for joining the army. The armed forces as an institution molds the young recruit into a person who will willingly fight kill and die for his comrades in arms. And unlike what you may like to believe this is not achieved by turning him into a machine but by turning him into a human being who thinks of his company / battalion / regiment before himself.
    8. So, you ask why we should glorify the soldiers. Well, why glorify anyone? Everyone chooses a profession out of ones own will. So, why should we glorify a sportsperson for winning medals for the nation? Why should we glorify the artists for performing in the field of arts? No one asked them to become sportspeople / artists. Besides, they earn money from it. (Much more than a soldier.)
    9. Yes there are other professions where there is chance of death. However, let me point out one difference to you. In every other profession if a person moves away from the danger and saves oneself, the person will not be punished. Armed forces is the only profession where a soldier takes an oath to do his duty even at the cost of his life and can be punished if he tries to save himself at the cost of his duty.

    Reply

    • In reply to Nitin Joshi

      1. I don’t mean a soldier is literally a machine. Obviously! I know they’re human beings. What I mean is that they follow orders like a machine. They have emotions, but no free choice.

      2. The pay and protocol of the armed forces is determined by supply/demand of the job. It takes a LOT more qualifications to be a judge, and there are consequently fewer of them. With one of the larges armies in the world, it’s clear that there’s enough of a demand. Hence the difference is pay.

      3. The tax I pay is voluntary since I run a freelance business. It’s not automatic like most of the salaried classes in India. Soldiers paying taxes is hardly a free choice made by them.

      4. I agree. And my taxes provide that right.

      5. I disagree that the soldier is paying for my freedom. If that was true, all countries with soldiers would be free.

      6. I agree a soldier fights for the “izzat” of the regiment. Why do you feel I disagree?

      7. Again, I agree. The motivation to fight alongside one’s comrade in arms is the driving force behind soldiers laying down their lives. It’s a beautiful thing.

      8. 100% agree. We shouldn’t glorify anyone.

      9. Agreed. I never presumed to say otherwise.

      Reply

  4. “Only 1% – ONE percent – of India actually pays taxes. ”

    Mr. Bhagwad,
    Everyone pays taxes. “Income tax” and “all tax” are not the same thing.

    Just like Bhagwad is a person. It does not mean that every person is Bhagwad. Must be a vast right wing conspiracy behind this surprising fact.

    Your statement is false. Kindly withdraw it.

    Reply

    • In reply to AB

      Most other taxes are involuntary. People have no choice but to pay them. There’s nothing patriotic about an involuntary tax, since there’s no question of choice. Obviously in this context I’m not referring to involuntary taxes.

      Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Are you saying that paying income tax is voluntary?

        Reply

      • In reply to AB

        For those who are not salaried, yes of course it is. There is enormous leeway to claim fake expenses, rent, and other deductions to reduce your income to below the taxable limit. If you have a salary, then of course TDS takes its toll and you have no choice. In which case, that hardly counts as patriotism.

        I on the other hand, pay my taxes with absolutely 0 shady deductions. In fact, I claim no expenses for my business at all, even though I easily could. Lots of people, have asked me to lower my income tax by doing this. And I refuse. This doesn’t even start to include the ways I could try and hide my income in the first place. Which most people do, if they have a choice.

        So, yes. Most of the tax I pay is voluntary.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Mr. Bhagwad,
        The vast majority of mob violence in India also goes unpunished. Thank you very much for doing the country a favor by not being part of violent mobs (presumably).

        Studies indicate that lots of rape also goes unpunished. Thank you again (presumably).

        Reply

      • In reply to AB

        99% of India does not indulge in mob violence. 99% of India does not rape. However, 99% of India does not pay income taxes.

        That makes it special.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        As opposed to 99% of Indians who serve in the Army, of course…

        Reply

      • In reply to AB

        People join the army, because they feel it’s the best deal for them personally. I don’t pay taxes because I think it’s the best thing for me.

        There’s one comment above written by a person in the army, who has laid out several points. Number 7 explicitly admits that most people don’t join for patriotic reasons. Their recruitment materials display this as well.

        This is hardly surprising. People need a stronger incentive than just “die for your country”. I wouldn’t expect it to be enough.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        People also need a stronger incentive than “giving my money away makes me happy” :) :)

        You yourself are saying that you went for something despite weak incentive. And then you say Let’s be real…the other guy’s incentive is not strong enough.

        Reply

      • In reply to AB

        I simply pay my taxes because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t like it! Since I can pay my taxes and forget about it for one year, my dislike doesn’t affect me that badly.

        But joining the army requires a lot more. It’s a career choice, just like any other. Oh yea, I’ll need a stronger incentive than that. My wife’s dad was in the Indian Air Force. It’s an open secret that the Army needs to keep up its incentives etc to attract the best people.

        Soldiers fight for their comrades in arms. For the honor of their regiment. That’s what motivates them. “Patriotism” is too vague a motivation. You need something concrete. Something “right there”.

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Got it! You are one of the few special snowflakes in the world that is motivated purely by “doing the right thing”.

        Naturally, since you are so special and so rare, we cannot possibly have a million man army if we depended solely on people who are motivated purely to fight for the nation’s honor. So, the point of your post is that you are a rare gem, almost unmatched among humanity.

        That figures.

        Reply

      • In reply to AB

        *blush*

        Reply

      • In reply to bhagwad

        Don’t be so hard on yourself man :)

        Reply

  5. Tax payers are not 1%, they must be close to 100%, as every thing/service you buy has sales/local body/service/VA tax. The seller is not paying for them. S/He will pass it to the consumer. For me, life is priceless; and that means if we have to measure a person’s respectability by money, then someone paying lacs in taxes and yet not ready to risk his/her life for my security, can never be as respectable as the one ready to risk his life.
    Of course you don’t have to be a soldier to prove your patriotic credentials. I go by Kamal Hassan’s philosophy on this: Patriotism is doing your work well, and not just fighting at the border.
    After having seen so many army men closely, I can vouch for it, that most people do join the armed forces for their country. Indeed people joining army for perks are in a minority.
    Though I must add that most of the people using the jingoistic “Soldiers are dying…” statements, are doing it only to attract the sentiments in their favour, and push their fanatic agendas further.

    Reply

  6. True.. A lot of people do not understand taxes. I give 30% of my income means, I give 30% of my time. The favor is mutual.

    Like.. I work in a shoe-factory to make shoes for the soldier Or as a teacher teaching the soldier’s son Or as a stock broker helping an investor invest in a company that makes fertilizers that are used by a farmer to grow potatoes to feed the solder fighting on the front. We live in a inter-connected world and glorifying any one profession over others is emotional-athyachar.

    Sure, there is a great effort needed by soldiers to do what do. Similarly doctors or politicians or anybody who works their ass of.

    If there is anybody who has to show gratitude, it is the corrupt who, as parasites, lives off others’ effort.

    I understand this rationale. And even after understanding it, I would definitely honor the man who put his life to risk even when knowing that if caught the enemy would torture him so cruelly that I shudder to imagine, goes to enemy territory, to secure his land and aims to come back a hero (dead or alive), fighting his own impulse to run and save his skin. I am helping him too..sure.. but he’s doing that something 5% more, that is worth a lot more to me. I will definitely thank him for the effort over and above the payment that I already made.

    Reply

    • In reply to Murali

      I agree – it’s a risky and dangerous job.

      My point was that there are other risky and dangerous – and equally important jobs too. Firemem, police officers, and drain cleaners. A higher chance of dying compared to soldiers, but without the perks and benefits that people in the armed forces get.

      Reply

  7. Western Point of View says:

    Great points man. Same thing happens in the US.

    Why is it so taboo to talk about this worldwide?

    Reply

  8. A drain cleaner can (technically) quit his job anytime and do something more ‘pleasurable’ like garden maintenance. Soldier cannot do so. That’s the main difference right, by which they deserve more respect than the drain cleaner, all other things being equal?
    What say?

    Although, to be fair, I do agree to all your other points, either as mentioned in the post itself or clarified in the comments subsequently.

    Reply

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