In one of the popular television features by Anurag Muskan, Ghanti Bajao, on ABP News Prime Time, a report on India’s middle class was appalling. In this season of lockdown, it has been this section of the population that has been exposed to vulnerabilities. Be it job losses, savings, spending, salary cuts coupled with rents and equated monthly incomes, they have become victims of helplessness, managing and maintaining their civic lives and ties in metropolises, which in itself is fraught with many challenges.
Economically, socially and politically, the individual is relegated to margins where the rank and position in the hierarchy plays a sound role in forging and nurturing associations with people around us. Creeping in is a sense of collective identity rather than individual, being subtle and suitable, devoid of any substance, as we consciously in our unconscious start living with it as a part of us. This lockdown has exposed the worst fears, which were an inherent part and reality of our social structure.
Looming larger than the crisis, the limiting and restricting of options, with many of us having to come to terms with the reality of the situation, and the circumstances seeming more practical than anything. The middle class have been vocal for any structural reformation and transformation influencing and impacting them by always being at the front of it.
When PM Modi gave the call for Taali and Thaali, they were quick to grab hold of the opportunity and occasion, thus making headlines. Be it for generously donating towards the PM Cares Fund, supporting local organisations in the relief and rehabilitation of local migrant workers, ensuring the salary payment of their domestic help, etc., this optics, to a great extent, was driven by a desire from their own set of beliefs and convictions, as by being passionate they reciprocated in the interest of the society of which they are a part of.
But listening to scores of household interviews from Delhi, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Mumbai, etc., a deep sense of palpable anxiety is visible on their faces. They were responding to questions of livelihood and survival with great unease and difficulty, prolonged by the extension of lockdowns. How would they pay for services, rent, instalments, etc. seemed more puzzling, with many interrogating the claims of the State, which has done more lip service than service for this category. Arousing a great sense of economic populism, only to be abandoned later for the pursuance of larger political objective interests.
How else would you describe the 20 lakh crore moratorium by the Centre to the various sections of the population than “sounding loud on paper”. Deaf on the ground, lacking a coherent vision and policy statements, at least the government should have opted for short term incentives for the people falling in the middle category, a broader category in size and shape. Alas! Encouraging us to become self-reliant in all respects, leaving upon dependence, be it for any organ, agency and authority of the State.
The urban middle class, being dislocated and conscious of identity, was asked to become vocal for local, and to give up on all forms of awareness associated with brands in and around. Taunted and tested at intervals, pruned and poked, illegitimately chirping the feathers of their aspirations and ambitions. How will the country ever aspire to pioneer and modernise when this section is being asked to fend for itself? Who will burden the responsibility for this class when it finds itself at the other stream?
The basic infrastructure, like medicine and education, which is being privatised in a country like ours, will be out of their bounds if they are deplored, for they will hardly make any value at all. The State ought to look up to them, without bothering to abandon them.