It might appear blindingly obvious that corruption affects every Indian, rich or poor, young or old, male or female, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, Sikh or Parsi. Yet, to the credit of the status quoists, they have succeeded in painting it as an urban middle-class issue (id est “minority”), from which the rural underclass (id est “majority”) is somehow magically disconnected, even uninterested if not complicit.
The burgeoning, in-your-face Anna Hazare phenomenon too suffers from the same optical illusion, as sections of the political establishment (and their drumbeaters in the media) paint his campaign as an “urban middle-class” fixation, something that apparently only leaves tech-savvy, TV-watching, non-voting, candle-lighting “people like us” (PLUs) frothing at the mouth.
“The answer lies in a fundamental shift in the middle class, starting with economic liberalisation in the early 1990s. The pre-liberalisation middle class was typically from professions that grew around the state — such as lawyering, accountancy, medicine, and of course, government service.
“This relationship mattered: it meant that the earlier middle class understood the Indian state; they were less ignorant of the processes of democracy that characterise parts of the Anna Hazare movement.
“The opening of the Indian economy in the ’80s and early ’90s dramatically changed this. A 2005-06 study found that of India’s current middle-class, 56-62 per cent is privately employed. This is significant. It indicates the growing ability of Indians to imagine social mobility in private ways, outside of the state….
“The new corporate middle class has little patience with the politics of dignity and identity that are — for better or worse — central to Indian politics. For them, the state is about providing services for which they pay with their tax money. Representation and social justice have little meaning. Consequently, they have contempt for electoral politics….”
Read the full article: The blind spots of India Shining
Photograph: Nursing students take part in a peace march in support of Anna Hazare in Bidar in north Karnataka, on Tuesday (Karnataka Photo News)