Indian Middle class… Some observations in academics..

I am in acquaintanceship with this class for last 8 years and probably will be in the same situation for rest of my life for almost all the institutes, places of scholarships, industries, livable places are abundant of this class. This class, after the independence, has grown in size and influence to an extent that all the India is now captured by it. By its sheer size of over 100 million by any reckoning, it is way to large to ignore and much harder to confront.

Indian Middle class can be judged by the peculiar behavior of its. Though it is very sympathetic (whether morally or genetically) toward growing inequalities in India but very fierce and ruthless in advancing itself for its own benefits at the cost of other less fortunate. It’s already in better place and have a strong hold on the resources which makes its life fairly easier than the others in competition. Competitions, even though fair, does not create equal opportunity for all. In India, these are not fair by any standard. Almost all the eloquent supporter of competition belong to this class. However, who scorns at the idea of merit and competitions does not explain how will these institutes function if the practice of merit/discrimination are not to be brought in. The admission criteria can be relaxed to accommodate someone less meritorious in the interest of the civil society at some cost of the Institutes but not at any cost. The reservation in India and the affirmative-action in US (i.e. to admit lesser represented social group, say Black community), both seek to make the representation more diverse (as argued by the politicians that time). However it is really interesting to note that while in US the idea was mooted by the institutes themselves, but in India, it was, at best, forced by politicians. Even Indian politician could have not done that unless the idea of reservation does not touch some chords in middle class. After Mandal, the idea of giving numerical reservation has solidify the caste-hierarchy rather than liquefying it. On bringing a change by themselves, Indian University fail miserably. A very few of them might have taken a new initiative by themselves. At best either they carry out what government tells them or try to find the a way around. Of course if you are not bringing changes someone else will. And others might not be considerate of your interests. Its pity that Indian intelligentsia show indifference toward most of the political matters. It says something about middle class for all the member of these institutes belong to this class. Is this class always wait for an order to do something and only act on whether to follow it or find a way around ?

The other significant Institute is Indian civil services. There are many examples in newspaper in which an individual civil servant talks in a way like all the fault is with the Institute he is serving and (s)he is a different pattern. Should one glorify oneself at the cost of the institute one is serving? This is largely true with the Police and our academic Institutes – both the teachers and students. A pleasing and somewhat peculiar exception is defense forces. I had some good conversation with and ex-Lt. Col. of Indian Army about this aspect. He also like to talk a lot while working in his garden.

Yesterday, Indian Medical Association was opposing the government move to bring more doctors to the rural areas see . When something has the potential to conflict its interest, this class uses all the conventional wisdom more passionately deliberately ignoring the benefits it could bring to other-class (poor workers and peasants). Passion is generally used to hide the weakness of the argument. Indian scholars have the habit of invoking passions while making a point.

In spite of all this, there are significant number of NGOs which work for the most backward of the class, mostly owned by the retired civil servant who are generally believed to be corrupt (at least in Hindi land).Some of these NGOs are doing extremely well. There are some human-rights organization run by retired lawyers and police officers.

It is rather surprising to see that the intellectual belonging to this class has diagonally opposite views. Some are varied of growing inequalities at the same time some the ruthlessly pursuing free-market agenda. Some are in support of sending army to hunt the Naxals down while others the being sympathetic to them. Some are on the panel-discussion on India Tv and while others are taking part on the Lok-sabha Tv. Some are leaving their homeland for greener pasture at the same time others are coming back to help it (or to make some news in media for a while and again to go back). I have known some professors who generally believe that one should work for their own universities and is not good for an Indian to leave the shore for education while at the same time they are comfortable sending their children to these exclusive institutes. And not to forget our educated classmates/students who generally find it hard to believe that there is a caste discrimination (read any story in TOI during anti-reservation campaign) yet follow the same pattern for marriage which their parents have sought.

It’s wonderful place to be curious!!

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Author: Dilawar

Graduate Student at National Center for Biological Sciences, Bangalore.

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