Development of economy and society goes hand in hand. With economic development comes prosperity to various sections of the society. Beneficiary sections or “classes” move up the social ladder with better material conditions. As per a survey, nearly half (49%) of the respondents identified themselves as middle class in India!
Although there is no universally accepted definition of the middle class, it is usually characterised by secure streams of income, progressive value system, adaptability to change, better levels of human development standards, greater aspiration for growth, and a heterogeneous occupational structure. Expanding middle class in a society indicates lifting millions out of poverty. In fact, middle class had been a frontrunner in the India’s freedom struggle!
Thus, middle class is considered to be a group capable of bringing social and economic transformation while serving as a huge market for consumer durables. In effect, they are one of the key drivers of economic, social and political development of a country.
While Congress has long suppressed the entrepreneurial aspirations of the middle class, it is the Modi government which has given due attention to the middle class, as evident in various interventions aimed at their promotion.
Being a major consumer, middle class has benefitted from the implementation of pro-consumer GST. Robust anti-profiteering measures have ensured consumers get the tax cut benefits. Lower taxes on household goods, appliances and residential properties have made “dreams come true” moment possible for millions of Indian middle class people lifting their standard of living. Indeed, given the size of middle class, many multinational companies are eying investment in India.
Then broad-basing of banking services through Jan Dhan Yojana, seed capital through MUDRA yojana, access of electricity through Saubhagya Yojana, clean fuel through Ujjwala Yojana, affordable housing through PM Awas Yojana, social security through PM Shram Yogi Mandhan Yojana, Atal Pension Yojana etc have certainly acted as a catalyst to uplift crores of Indians out of poverty who have joined the aspirational middle class cutting across rural or urban occupational structure.
Further institutionalising honesty through multi-pronged action against corruption has given a moral boost to the progressive value system of the middle class, which also happens to be an honest tax-paying class. The PM has always recognised the role of middle class for their contribution towards nation-building.
“India is home to a dynamic middle class, which is making an outstanding contribution to the nation’s progress. The work ethic of the middle class is admirable and so is their honesty and compassion.“– PM Modi
But, if one looks at the approach of Congress towards middle class, it has never brought them to centre stage of public discourse, the way Modi government has. Instead, seeing the groundswell of middle class support for PM Modi, the Congress has in fact slammed them. In an interview, Sam Pitroda, Chairman of Overseas Congress asked middle class not to be ‘selfish’ and ‘have a big heart’ when it comes to fund the Nyay scheme promised by the Congress in its manifesto. Even in its manifesto for 2019, Congress in a condescending tone has said that “It is the Congress that created India’s successful middle class and the new entrepreneurial class.”
Even when the Congress was in government, the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram had taunted the middle class.
In any case, the growing middle class and the measures taken for their welfare will ensure a greater autonomy and freedom to the middle class in their decision-making. Buoyed by their ‘unleashing of animal spirits’, India is to be a $5 trillion economy by 2025. It is said that history repeats. This time the middle class will play a pioneering role in independence from poverty and corruption taking India to be in the league of developed nations by 2047, the 100th year of Independence.