The middle-class has no country

So, petrol prices shot up by Rs 7.50 per litre in one go, as the government, compelled by the rupee depreciation and with immediate politics out of the way (read parliament session), showed it has Dutch courage when the going gets tough. While there have been understandably groans of protest from the people we bracket as middle class, others joining the chorus include those whose monthly pay bracket would read like a mobile phone number, at the very least.

They however, need not worry, except for the lip service they feel compelled to pay as a faux sense of solidarity. Come to think of it, a few thousand bucks extra as monthly fuel bills, when your earning capacity is either in a few or several hundred thousands, is like a bothersome house-fly buzzing over sweetmeats. It’s an irritation, but certainly not fatal.

Compare that with the average middle-class earner, whose take home does not even touch the six-figure mark – a few thousand rupees increment in fuel expenses, when there is little by way of an increment in take home pay, is certainly a kill-joy, if not a downright killer.

Every developed country in the world today needs the rich Indian, or the rich Chinese, or the rich whatever – people who can invest millions in dollar terms, in exchange for which the citizenship of the beneficiary country is theirs for the taking, fast tracked in a space of a few months.

The message is clear – if you are unhappy with your government, don’t bother changing the government, simply change your allegiance to a new flag. That the rich owe their loyalty only to their wealth is a given – and one doesn’t see any moral turpitude in that. Invest $500K and you can get a Green Card. Invest $5 million, and in 6 months you can get an Australian citizenship (how many would like to be citizens in that decidedly racist country is another argument altogether).

What, however, of the middle-class? Where does it go and seek succour, a la Eduardo Saverin who had no qualms in giving up his US citizenship for a Singaporean one to save millions of dollars in taxes.

Squeezed at home, by both the government which leaves damn little for them on the table, and literally so, and by their employers who cite the current economic blues as reason enough to deny even the basic increment to make up for the increased cost of keeping body and soul together due to inflation, the middle class has been reduced to the state of being wet grain caught in the midst of the traditional Indian stone wheat grinders, awaiting their turn to be ground to a fine powder that will ultimately feed the avarice of the political and business class, specimens of which have been asking for bailouts while living a life of good times.

Is there then any country for the middle class, people whose only contribution is that they pay their taxes on time and live their lives in boundaries defined by law, rarely if ever stepping out its precincts? Where do the 3.3 crore tax-payers, give or take a few hundred thousand who are the HNIs, go to live a decent life?

They obviously don’t have the wherewithal to buy a citizenship to one of the more developed economies where at least the basics of daily life are a given. Nor, do I suppose, have the banks come out with citizenship loans, which would allow many of us to pay for acquiring a citizenship on an EMI basis.

Why is it that the much touted austerity measures that the respectable FM talks about are applicable only top-down from the middle-class, instead of bottom up? Isn’t it amazing that a country of nearly 122 crore is sustained and run on the taxes gleaned from the income of a few crore?

We are being sold a dream of the long run, when hopefully, some day, India will be on an equal footing with the major developed economies of Europe and North America. But as noted British economist John Maynard Keynes, whose name is dropped in gay abandon by the powers that be, said nearly 90 years back, in the long run, we are all dead. He sure is, and if our economist PM truly believes in following the adage, we shall surely be too, much sooner than our time is due.

Truly, unwanted abroad and uncared for at home.

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