India’s ignored middle class dilemma – the New Indian Express
A real estate agent comes to you with an offer. There is a house in a housing company which has a large charter for its residents. One of the rights you have as a resident is the vote to select the executive committee of the residents’ association and its officers.
Public space within society is for the use of all. You are excited, but your partner is more careful and asks for clarification.
Reluctantly, the officer begins to spell it out. Most of the people in the colony are not as wealthy as you are. The committee therefore gives them free electricity and water to help them.
The fund comes from the budget of the company. Some residents are much richer than you, but they must be motivated to provide free electricity and water to the poorest majority.
These people are exempt from paying maintenance fees as an incentive to their risk. If the service of these risk-loving people breaks down or they go bankrupt due to their exorbitant lifestyle and run away with the common money, as often happens, each resident will share the loss equally. But the majority are poor, so the burden of sharing this loss is all on you.
But if you want to start a small business from your home, the company rules don’t allow it easily, and you won’t get any financial assistance guaranteed by the committee.
If you default on any of your loans, the Residents’ Council will confiscate your property. As there are too many inhabitants, the housing committee cannot guarantee an uninterrupted power supply for all, so you must have your own generators.
Of course, you have to pay a fee to the company to use your generators because you are polluting the environment. Crime is rampant and society has no security funds, so you are encouraged to have your own security guards.
The roads inside the colony have many potholes, as the company is perpetually short of funds. So the company asked a few of its wealthy members to build new roads. These entrepreneurs need to be motivated, so you need to pay an additional toll to use the company’s roads.
Since committee members must be elected, riots can break out from time to time between neighbors so that the best jerk can win the election. You are also warned to keep the women in your family safe inside your home after dark, as there are many perverts in the society that might harm them. A lot of the essential stuff has to come from outside, and you have to pay the board three times its cost as a company development fee, although you can’t see any visible development.
The company will put up flexible signs urging you to keep the premises clean, but you’ll be waddling around in the dirt and crap on the roads and sewers often spill over into your kitchen. The air is dirty and the water is polluted. Of course, there are certain advantages to living in this impressive colony. You can be proud of your company because it is old.
You have the right to abuse or even act violently against anyone who dares to criticize him. Would you like to live in such a place? The Indian middle class has already bought this dream home in the dysfunctional housing society. The majority of Indians are poor, but they have a certain voice in relation to the middle class. No one can blame the poor of India.
They live a difficult life. Most of those who escaped the misery of the previous generation did so by being hardworking, honest, law-abiding and tax-paying citizens. And see that they are being cheated. Not all struggles are worth it. We pay taxes through the nose for fuel, spend 15 years of withholding tax on our borrowed vehicles, and still have to pay tolls to individuals to use our roads. We pay income tax and then GST on whatever we buy using the income we had previously paid tax on. The rich grab land by political and financial power, the smart poor squat the slums which are regularized.
We, as the middle class, strive for decades to pay off our home loans and education loans. Farmers get free electricity, fertilizer subsidies, and loan exemption melas, and big business gets tax cuts, a massive NPA cancellation, and subsidized bank loans. The middle class receives lessons in patriotism and WhatsApp comes forward for hating one group or another. The government cannot provide us with suitable hospitals, so we are forced to pay a ransom to the private ones. It is the same with education. One need only look at the humans packed like sardines in the people of Mumbai to see the enormity of the drudgery that the middle class goes through for a bit of dignity and livelihood.
Public transportation in most Indian cities is in shambles, and law and order is an elaborate joke. There is no social security in old age after paying a lifetime of tax. No safety net is available. What little there was is also being torn away. Retirees are now encouraged to play in stock market programs run by speculators. Unless the middle class forms a vote bank, the situation is sure to get worse. We don’t matter now. Isn’t it time for us, the middle class, to ask ourselves not what we can do for the country – we are doing more and enough – but what the country can do for us too?
Anand Neelakantan [email protected]
Author of Asura, of the Ajaya series, of the Vanara and Bahubali trilogy