Middle class double standards

The Planning Commission affidavit on the poverty criterion led to public outcry. The sensitive and vocal middle class was outraged. How could any one survive on the paltry sum of Rs 32 in the times of sky rocketing prices? The govt. was ridiculed for the outrageously low per capita daily consumption expenditure of Rs. 32 in urban areas to define the poverty line which translates into approximately Rs 6000 per month for a family of six.

The middle class might have made high decibel noise on the terribly low benchmark of poverty but it is one thing to voice concern and quite another to give a fair deal to the poor. Where does the ‘concern’ of the ‘concerned’ middle class vanish when it bargains with the poor fruit-vegetable sellers or the petty service providers who struggle to make both their ends meet? In departmental stores, we, the people belonging to the middle class, don’t mind paying exorbitant price but with the petty hawkers and vendors we must bargain to bring the price to the rock bottom. Charity, we do since it makes us feel good but giving some one his rightful due is difficult, then our bargaining instinct overpowers our compassionate nature.

We may find the poverty criterion specified by the govt. outrageous, but when it comes to paying the domestic help-maids and servants, we do not care if the money given falls short of the poverty line. Let the domestic help ask for a raise, we would resent even if what we are paying is just a pittance. Middle class double standard! A single family outing to a multiplex costs not less than a thousand bucks but we brush aside any sense of guilt when we hand over just half the sum to the domestic help who slogs every day for an hour to keep our house in order.

Whenever such a thought comes to my mind, I don’t let it bother me and blame the poor for their miserable plight. Why should they produce so many children? Compassion for the poor man disappears; rather a rage builds up against the fellow for bearing so many children. I find all my sympathy directed towards the poor children who are pushed into the world of deprivation without any choice, thus perpetuating the vicious circle of poverty.

Brushing aside any sense of guilt, we find it convenient to pass the buck on the govt. Why is the govt. not doing enough? Blame it on bungling and leakages and  all pervading corruption from the top to the bottom; the huge sum of money spent by the govt. on poverty alleviation just goes down the drain. Again, we are content pointing the finger towards the govt. for the failure as if the aliens and not we, the people of India, are running the govt. agencies and the various anti-poverty programs.

 

The piece published in Hindustan Times on Nov 4, 2011 won the Best Letter Award

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