Middle Class Matters

Harasankar Adhikari

The Indian middle-class is eventually the largest consumer class from al-pin to the elephant. ‘This class has been considered a thriving and vibrant catalyst for economic growth.’ It constitutes a critical market for most good and services. ‘It has an important role in any relative political stability.’ Therefore, it is evident, ‘A healthy middle is necessary to have a healthy political democracy. A society made up of rich and poor has no either politically or economically.’ This class is the largest vote bank determining the political party to be formed government. That’s why, this class is a priority to the Bharatiya Janata Party ( BJP ) led NDA government to hold and strengthen the captive vote bank.  Modi said on 15th August at the Red Fort speech, ‘Middle class has the ability to perform miracles.’ Considering the importance of middle class in Indian economy, he was splendid, ‘It is correct that whatever opportunity that the middle class gets, that has a multiplier effect. The middle class should get more opportunities and open playing field.’ ‘Be it farmers or the salaried class, they form a large part of the country’s middle class. And people who have come from the middle class are making a name for  themselves across the world, Doctors, engineers, lawyers, scientists from the middle class have made the country proud across the world.’ His government is assuring, ‘ease of living’ through provision of low-cost internet or low-cost smart phone or cheap airfare or highways, home loan, reduction in GST, MSME, and facilities for agriculture sector’s development. But is it really enough for all of the middle-class people?

Who is this middle class and, what is the history of the origin of this class? ‘The middle class falls in the middle of the social hierarchy and occupies a socioeconomic position between the working class and upper class’ who has ‘purchasing power, educational levels, perceptions of whom constitute “the wealthy”.’ After independence, the “colonial” middle class was slowly transformed into a “new” middle class in terms of consumption behavior, ‘with the country moving gradually towards a market-led capitalist economy.’ In the 1990s the middle-class population was thirty million approximately or less than one percent of the population. But after economic liberation in 1991, ‘the percentage of the middle class raised steadily to about 5% of the population in 2004.’ ‘During the period between 2004 and 2012, the size of the middle class was doubled from 300 million to 600 million.’ Economists define ‘the middle class as consumer spending from US dollar 2 to 10 per capita per day.’ According to this, approximately half of India’s population of 1.3 billion is now in the middle class. India is currently the third largest middle-class market, after China and the United States. This ‘new, modern, mobile class has been created due to the rapid growth of the global software industry.’

Prime Ministry Narendra Modi acknowledges the doctors, engineers, scientists and so forth section belonging to the upper middle class and it is only a few comparing to  India’s population. What about is the lower middle class? According to the World Economic Forum (2016), the majority of them is the lower middle class who are occupationally in lower position. Among them, 30% is vendors and about 13% of them engage in food industry. The rest of them are in leather work(8%), paints/carpenters (7%), construction (6%), cloth/shop washing (5%), security services (5%), wielding & repairing (4%), and 2% of each of them are engaged in bangle work, cable/electrical work, data entry, driver/transport services, and imitation jewelry, etc. respectively. In fact, they are mostly the interstate migrant workers. Their jobs are not secured. These jobs are demand driven by a greater influence of branding and product differentiation.

Unfortunately, the pandemic has been affected this class badly. A significant portion of them has lost their jobs, and they are in a tremendous crisis. Further, educated unemployed youth from this class is not getting jobs, while they have invested a lot for their education. The government has no opportunity to create jobs for this section. But it is busy to privatize the largest employment sectors i.e. railways, telecom and so forth. Where would they go for their career? Again the lower middle class is falling down to the lower class, and they are living in worried position. Further, one witnesses the failure of the government to strengthen the agricultural development and protection of farmers’ interest. They have to commit suicide for not getting proper prices of their products and not getting proper support from the government. But this government is strengthening the hands of corporate.  Prime Minister’s speech for the middle class is nothing but a marketing campaign for corporate goods.

The government is trying to ignore that half of India’s current 1.3 billion people are below the age of twenty-six. It is one of the youngest countries in the world where projected median age is twenty-nine (India’s Demographic Dividend, 2017). May the infrastructure development and like such programme be only the appropriate strategy for empowering this class? Why is there no strategy for the employment of the youth? What would be the situation of the people atthe bottom of the pyramid? Only the political advertising is enough to tackle to bombard situations of the countrymen? India’s democratic government is only for serving the corporate. It would be harmful for the long run.

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Aug 24, 2020

Harasankar Adhikari

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