Understanding politics and economy of the Indian middle class


The Indian middle class is the chief driver of the Indian economy. It is also superbly connected and has power centers everywhere. Yet, this class, as a whole, also has certain characteristics that make it so unique. Certain dimensions of the same are discussed in some detail in this article.

Introduction

The Indian Middle classes are divided into three main classifications. The upper middle classes are those who have monthly incomes that exceed Rs.60,000 and above, between the husband and the wife, or even only by one family member, in cities like New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkatta, and Chennai. Of course, in the case of the first two cities, it is safe to plug it at Rs.75,000, considering the very high cost of rented housing. The middle class in the middle of the middle -class spectrum would be drawing between Rs. 30,000 and Rs.60,000. Those from the IITs and the NITs and the IIMs and ISB and the famous doctors, who walk away with incomes of more than two hundred thousand per month, are now exhibiting all the characteristics of the rich, like enjoying the foreign holidays very often, ordering food through the likes of Swiggy to the tune of Rs. 25,000 per month and so on.

Be that as it may, the middle class, as a whole in India, are a) Highly educated and are well-connected b) Never take part in social movements c) Some do not vote, almost every time d) Are parasitic and are selfish to some extent e) Contribute so much to the religious economy f) Offer hope to all the MNC companies and g) The lower middle class also shows its power.

Highly educated and are well-connected

Across India, those who search for brides and bridegrooms are so happy to find that the boy or the girl is highly educated. The B.Tech/MBA qualification is very common. Even the arts and science people are post-graduates or doctorates. Of late, the middle classes are very well informed and have started taking up courses in digital marketing, capital markets and so on, since they jolly well know that one can become an entrepreneur, after learning the tricks of the trade. The Indian middle-class lobby is very powerful. Facebook, Twitter and other elements of the International social media are thickly populated by this class. There is only one direction that this influence can go: up. None less. The chances of any drastic subsidy to the poor is just not possible in India. The income tax benefits have to be given. If not, the party might lose the next election itself.

Never take part in social movements

The recent atrocious proposed Salem to Chennai, eight-lane Highway, that seeks to destroy so much of nature, is a real nightmare and the poor farmers and those from among the poor who care for the environment are up in arms. The middle class? They are so silent and are not bothered. For them, their existence and development are more important. If they come to the streets as they did during the historic Jallikattu protest on the Marina beach two years ago, everything will change for the better. In fact, this was the only occasion in which the middle class showed their anger. Surprisingly, the agitation against the lack of adequate drinking water, in most parts of Tamil Nadu, has just not taken off. This is due to official apathy. This author has seen such apathy among the middle class in most parts of India. Civic hygiene is another issue. "I don't care" attitude of an average middle-class citizen is actually responsible for the mess in this respect, in most cities of India.

Some do not vote, almost every time

If the voting day falls on a Saturday, one can always find thousands of bankers who would be headed home. But they may not even vote. That day is for enjoying the time with their families. Chennai and many other metro locations have recorded very poor voting percentages since a good number do not think it necessary to vote. Those in the middle of the spectrum are deeply disturbed about the massive increase in inflation and are so busy with getting into so many "side" businesses to make money. The story ends here. It is very unfortunate, but the story is the same. Every single time.

Are parasitic and are selfish to some extent

If one goes through the history of some agitations for more perks and salaries by the Government employees, one can always notice that they exhibit some parasitic tendencies. The demand is for more money. However, in many Government schools, the record of performance is still very poor. Ditto for the Government colleges. Their rights are sacred to them. However, they are, of late, being rather selfish and want their own agenda to be met. This is one worrying aspect of the middle class.

Contribute so much to the religious economy

As a rule, the middle-classes, particularly the lower middle classes, contribute so much to the religious economy. These sometimes extend to making the so-called Godmen ( who are highly connected, politically) very rich. On the outskirts of Coimbatore city, there is a huge yoga ashram, run by a Guru of sorts. This yoga Guru is highly connected to the ruling party at the center. He himself has been accused of encroaching upon lands of farmers. Yet, he has intelligently combined his yoga with religion. A huge Lord Shiva statue was opened by no less a person than the Prime Minister of India, Mr. Modi. One can imagine what would have been the donations. It runs into several crores of rupees. The merry go round goes on and on. Hundreds of thousands visit the temples and the economy of that local place thrives. Examples are the Madurai Meenakshi temple, the Jagannath temple at Puri and so on. The Tirupathi temple is the best example. Of course, spirituality does bring about peace.

Offer hope to all the MNC companies

This is another big plus. The middle classes buy perfumes, costly clothes, all the food items, the items that go to keep restrooms clean and so on. Manufactured by the giant multinational companies. The market is so huge and keeps expanding with every single day. Every newborn baby, for example, makes Johnson and Johnson so rich. There is no big competitor. The soaps and the shampoos, and the televisions and the cars, and all the electronic items, and the smartphones -- you get the picture. Apple leads the way for the upper middle classes. Saris are purchased for even one hundred thousand rupees. Those these do not come from some foreign manufacturer, the spending patterns speak so much for the potential. In every management conference, you can find some foreign expert talking so affectionately about the "size" of the Indian middle-class market. Plugged at something like 320 million, it is growing and growing. The numbers will keep increasing every single day.

The lower middle class also shows its power

Of late, the lower middle classes have started to assert themselves. Hundreds of thousands of girls, for example, flock to the cities and are seen to be taking up the BPO jobs, with a salary of Rs. 7000 per month. They are graduates, with zero knowledge of English. Yet, they form groups. The rent out small independent houses or flats, and share the expenses. Often, some six of them live together and cook their own food and do all the cleaning. The housekeepers are happy as the rents are regularly paid. This happens in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai. Once they settle down a bit, they learn English through a process of socialization.

They still manage to save money that helps their parents back home. This is just one indicator. There are others who have set up small businesses everywhere. Their aspirations to graduate to much higher incomes is so high. This new development does augur well for the Indian economy, where an increasingly large share of the economy is contributed by services. This will continue.

Conclusion

India is stated to be one of the fastest growing economies of the world. The Indian middle class has played a significant role in shaping the size of this economy. However, the same characteristics, as discussed above, are likely to continue for a very long time. There will not be any drastic change.


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