Modern India: Middle Classes, New El Dorado in Desperado Society

Ambivalent Structures in India

A depraved distribution of wealth and exportable advanced technology. Under the veneer of this global economic emergence, of the 400 million city dwellers, 68 million live in slums whose living conditions are considered unsuitable for human life.

In other words, twice the population of present-day Morocco lives in slums. Mumbai has more than 7.5 million Indian citizens living in unsanitary conditions, or the entire population of Hong Kong. If we take into account the 5 major Indian cities, such as Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai and Bangalore, we will arrive at the total population of the Netherlands, that is to say 17 million who are piled up in slums around these metropolises of the India’s economic growth.

Despite all these backlashes and backwardness, the Western Economic Powerhouses remained adamant about India as a Market and as opportunities where to consolidate their profit given the size of the population and the rising purchasing power of the nascent upper middle-classes driven by the Modi government. The political party of Modi exploit their emergence as its own political social base and a mirror of the “so-called” effectiveness of the nationalist reforms and the populist ideology surrounding the strategy of development pursued by the State of India with Narendra Modi as the Prime Minister.

Social problems and misery are of the same proportion as these optimistic figures published by international organizations seeking only to profit either from the wealth or the misery of the countries of the south, regardless of their authentic statutes, the main thing they offer potential, they are distinguished by opportunities and rank among the economies that seek and run after foreign investors and that alone is enough to make them attractive, a target and a victim of these predators who “gratify” them with grandiose labels but empty of realism of growth and sticking to them slogans of progress which do not bring any social change.

Thus these countries of the south are crowned with laurels of mirage and falsehood which enlarges their place in the ranking of global attractiveness as reformist economic structures adapting liberal sustainability and endowed with the prerogative of sustainable development, thus they are integrated in the concert of the world market and the international division of manual labor, robotics and logistics as being countries with enormous possibilities of development, of course we are talking here about the development of their own interests not those of the destitute and socially vulnerable social strata and castes such as those existing in India. The Western economies ignore the omnipresent misery that affects 300 million Indian citizens according to the most conservative calculations.

Vision of India by France and the Rest of the Western World

India responds today to the principle of Jugaad – the possibility of creating, of innovating – by advancing at high speed, and surprises as much by its phenomenal growth as by its versatility.

This country-continent indeed seems to be weathering all storms, despite the global social and economic crisis caused in 2020 by the development of Covid-19, to which India has not escaped.

India’s economy ranked eleventh in the world ten years ago and fifteenth in 1990. According to the projections of Cepii economists, India should, thanks to the maintenance of strong growth (5.5% on average per year), continue to climb in the world hierarchy over the coming decades. It would be in 2050 in third place, behind the United States (2nd) and China (1st), but far ahead of Japan (4th) and Germany (5th) – with France falling back to eighth place.

According to calculations by the Bloomberg agency, based on IMF data and updated exchange rates, India has just snatched from the United Kingdom, its former colonizer, the fifth place it occupied in the world ranking of economic powers. India’s annual GDP is valued at $3,530 billion, compared to the UK’s of $3,380 billion.

After an increase of 8.7% in 2021, India should, according to IMF experts, see its GDP grow by 7.4% this year, a rate more than twice that of the United Kingdom (3 .2%), but also from China (3.3%). During the second quarter of 2022, India recorded a growth of 13.5% year on year. Due to population gaps, however, India’s GDP per capita is still nineteen times lower today than in the UK ($2,500 versus $47,000).

With a GDP growth estimate of 11.5% for the fiscal year 2021-22 according to the IMF, or even more for the OECD, placing the country in first place in the world, India defies predictions, as the illustrates the exponential development of its consumer market: the growth of its middle class, its number of working women, its urbanization, its young population (72% of the population is under 30) and its connectivity (2nd world base of mobile subscribers) open up broad prospects, reinforced by the Covid-19 crisis, which will have considerably boosted e-commerce and international investment in this area.

India, an Emerging Economy with Social Immobilism

The Indian economy in figures…

GDP: 1758 billion dollars (2013, IMF)

GDP per capita: 1,414 dollars (2013, IMF)

Growth rate: 4.7% (2013/2014, OECD) – 3.8% (2013)

Inflation rate: 9.5% (consumer prices, 2013, IMF)

Budget balance: -2% of GDP (2013, IMF)

Trade balance: -168 billion dollars (2011, IMF)

Main partners: China, United States, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Germany, Singapore, United Kingdom

Share of main sectors of activity in GDP: (2013 World Bank)

  • Agriculture: 16 .9%
  • Industry: 17%
  • Services: 66.1%

  • India’s economy is forecast to grow by 7% this year, making it the 5th largest in the world, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) says.
  • It was the world’s 11th largest economy a decade ago.
  • The IMF sees India having the world’s 4th highest GDP by 2027.

Just a decade ago, Indian GDP was the eleventh largest in the world. Now, with 7 percent growth forecast for 2022, India’s economy has overtaken the United Kingdom’s in terms of size, making it the fifth biggest. That’s according to the latest figures from the International Monetary Fund.

India’s growth is accompanied by a period of rapid inflation in the UK, creating a cost of living crisis and the risk of a recession which the Bank of England predicts could last into 2024. This situation, coupled with a turbulent political period and the continued hangover of Brexit, led to Indian output overtaking that of the UK in the final quarter of 2021, with the first of 2022 offering no change in the ranking.

Looking ahead, the IMF forecasts this to become the new status quo, with India expected to leap further ahead of the UK up to 2027 – making India the fourth largest economy by that time, too, and leaving the UK behind in sixth. Source

India Disfigured: Emerging Economy and Miserable Caste Society

Real and sustainable development cannot be achieved without the social side. India is the perfect example of sustainable Mal-development in its negation of the social and the carousel distributing the positions of force and existing in the ruling sphere maintains this rigidity and this social immobility while favoring an extraction of technological elites at the image of the technocrats who flourished under military dictatorial regimes. Faced with the need to justify their abrupt intrusion on the political scene, the military in Latin America during the decades of the sixties and seventies who failed to find social classes to strengthen their coups had formed and favored the insertion of technocrats such as the “Chicago Boys” of the School of Milton Friedman. In Morocco, it was Doctors and Lawyers and Sabatiers who became Prime Ministers supported by a host of State Engineers trained by the Ecole Polytechnique, Arts et Métiers or by the Mohammedia School of Engineers. In Europe, it was the European “Énarques” coming directly from the State Centralism necessary for the reconstruction of the post-war period.

India is being touted as the greatest democracy by this world in the eyes of foreign investors and those who are the clients of its offshore activities and industries. Following the legislative elections which took place from 7th April to 12th May 2014 in which 814 million people were called to vote, the BJP candidate, Narendra Modi, was elected Prime Minister. (1) While in reality, the contemporary ruling class of India comes from a feudal-type colonial regime, having sidelined the Khans and Maharajas thanks to its consolidation by Great Britain and the Companies Deprived of Commerce English, who throughout their history only wanted to exploit the local wealth without touching the structure of the political and social domination of the country. A closed caste system is thus perpetuated through a supposed respect for Hindu spirituality. 

According to Max Weber, a caste is therefore in the sense of possession and non-possession of property, a social structure less than the class whose characteristics and status are predetermined from birth. This social predestination is therefore a defect and a direct obstacle to any social mobility at the level of isolated individuals and having no connection and no localization in the division of society as social classes. (2)  

Pitirim A. Sorokin sees India as the archetype of a closed society in which status is assigned, as opposed to open societies in which status is acquired. (3) Some theses defend the openness of Indian society achieved through “reservation” policies (positive discrimination), namely a dissociation between caste and class [which] has even increased (although the congruence remains extremely strong). Moreover, the secularization of the country went hand in hand with a delegitimization of the use of caste criteria in common sense. (4)

Yet Sorokin’s binary typology has a misleading effect: Indian society is not completely closed. However relative this delegitimization may be, it nevertheless introduced a breach in the principles guaranteeing the Indian social order. Indian theodicy, which Weber described as “the most consistent that history has ever produced” (5), thus found itself competing with an ideology of merit according to which the value of the individual no longer depends on his birth, but on his professional success. In reality, the holders of power by the pomp of their way of life and the complexity of international challenges and regional conflicts as well as the need for India to position itself as an economy of global reach could not be a structure completely closed to innovation and economic and technological creativity. The Institute of Technology inaugurated after independence laid the early foundations for social mobility based on merit and scientific knowledge. Nevertheless, these changes had in no way altered the de facto immobile structure in India, it only allowed the ruling classes to select and measure individual promotion according to the needs of the consolidation of their own interests and also in order to make themselves prevail with Western nations claiming human rights.

It is this “Great Bourgeoisie” formed in the technical schools set up by Nehru and at the business level in the formative and university circles made by the British and later in the USA. In fact, engineers were made in-house, while business leaders made in the USA while politicians and administrators were made in Great Britain, while army supplies were made in Moscow and France to reduce the impact of the British in the training of military elites to better confront regional challenges which could also avail themselves of British assistance.

In this imbroglio and this underlying politico-economic maze for the benefit of the ruling and ruling classes in India, a regional dispute took over from the conflict of internal interests. The geo-political situation of India in relation to China, Afghanistan and especially Pakistan / Kashmir has given the opportunity to the diversity of the governing classes to have a nationalist weld and reflexes of self-preservation of the system of their domination and to legitimize their gains and their privileges as natural rewards for their defenses of independence and of the supreme interest of the Indian nation which in reality and in its vast majority remains torn, engulfed in miserable castes and disparate and this at all levels of the expression of national belonging.

This conflicting dichotomy of Indian society has forced those in power to transform democracy into an elective dynasty that is determined by those who come first to take and wield power and never let go. These occupants of power in India use the twirling system by which only the Sahibs and themselves subsequently have access and above all can currently use the fallout from Indian Nationalism inherited from the Dynasty of Jawaharlal Nehru and its descent through Indira Ghandi. Indeed, the almost orchestrated succession through a successive combination of the use of the revered name of Ghandi, through the rotation of the same family lineage and through the claim of a similar ideological affiliation have all favored and aided the dominance of the sphere of power of the Indian central state.

This usurpation was coupled with a pseudo-liberal opening of the major sectors of the economy and an economic adaptation to new international data. The combination of these symbols in a country largely superstitious and fatalistic in its mass popular culture channeled the alternation of the same rulers while contributing directly from independence to the present day, granted the same ruling caste to hold and pull off the coup de force to hijack national achievements for its own benefit and in its name. It is not surprising to find in such a dualistic environment that even New Delhi airport bears the name of Indira Ghandi.

Emergence of Middle Classes in a Castrated Economy

A socio-institutional diversion was taken advantage of by the same ruling class since independence, which allowed it to grant itself the ability to create or expand new social bases for itself and for any new central power and this without altering the immobility for the great majority of the social components of India. As a result, the power structure in India remains an association of ruling class interests with the aspirations of social and technocratic elites stemming from economic dirigisme and pervasive social obstruction even at the level of political and representative expression. .

“In the aftermath of independence, the middle class consisted of civil servants and employees of public enterprises, when the state played a central role in the country’s economy. […..] With the liberalization of the economy, members of this middle class, educated, English-speaking, mostly from upper castes, have been able to benefit from the windfalls created by the development of the private sector by occupying better jobs. remunerated, particularly in the IT services sector. Those who replaced them in civil service positions are more likely to come from lower or intermediate castes and come from medium-sized towns. (6)

“India had ‘only’ 350 million people at independence. It exceeded one billion in 2000. It now has around 1.160 billion people and will overtake China around 2030. As we know, this population includes very, very rich people and many very, very poor people. But what is striking today is the rise of a large middle class, which now numbers between 200 and 300 million people with a monthly income of 30,000 to 40,000 rupees for the lower middle classes (about 461 to 615 euros) and a monthly income of 40,000 to 50,000 rupees for the upper middle classes (i.e. approximately 615 to 769 euros)” (7) 

The efforts of the central State tend to stimulate economic growth to strengthen the foundations of this middle class and facilitate its transformation and its contribution to the formation of a modern consumer society in India. This transformation should take place outside the caste system that has long hampered social mobility and consumption in India. From this perspective, the enrichment of households is seen as the lever for this integration. The sustainable development of the entire economy of India accompanied by a total transformation of the caste system are not the objectives of the policy of rapid growth favored by the Indian Government.

Indeed, the leaders of India could thus shape the class in power by selectively recruiting their own and direct social bases, in particular by favoring in this respect all the decisions and economic measures going in the imitation of the West at the level of the expansion of the middle classes and at the level of the consolidation of the appropriation of key sectors of the economy by the offshoots of the same ruling political class.

In fact, the economic reality and the size of the market represented by the middle class in India remains a matter of exaggeration and marketing trends including foreign studies, which tends to “sell” to foreign investors and producers of famous brands. the label of the Indian middle class as a new Eldorado of economic expansion. For the consultant McKinsey, the middle class in India will reach 250 million only in 2015. However the loss of speed recorded by the 4-5% growth and the worsening of inflation affect its income, but the international experts persist and sign for its expansion. Thus, the American bank Goldman Sachs adds that “all analyzes suggest that the fastest expansion of the middle class will occur in Asia, with India ahead of China in the long term”. In the same perspective, a report by Deloitte predicts that India will be, in 2030, “the most important consumer market in the world”.  According to these same experts, the middle class in India is currently between 70 and 250 million people (out of 1.2 billion inhabitants)… 

How then to describe this middle class which is looking outward to adopt an imported lifestyle? and who substitutes coffee for traditional tea?  According to Pavan K. Varma, author of The Indian Challenge, “they have in common an adherence to instantaneous connectivity”, through the use of smartphones, social sites and information technology to access everyday news. . On the other hand, the 2011 census quantifies only 4.6% of Indians as educated and conversing in English. as well as the owner of a computer, a vehicle and a mobile phone.

It is made up of owners of small shops, skilled employees, salespeople, executives from the private sector. “The products that attract them: color television, leisure, such as travel within the country, health services, small household appliances, comfort products for the home (fan, etc.), hygiene products and skincare that is becoming more sophisticated (such as perfumes, which are found a lot in the “grey market”, illegal, but tolerated), outings to restaurants (Mcdonald’s in its version without the sacred cow, i.e. with chicken burgers is positioned here as a “family restaurant”). The car is only beginning to penetrate the upper part of the middle classes.” (9)

In such an ambivalent environment, economic progress remains despite its scientific and commercial achievements, it remains limited in its social achievement and remains deeply anchored and rooted in the Mal-Sustainable Development. Any economic shock such as a crisis of even regional or sectoral scope can do irreparable damage to this model of emerging economy and can lead to a whole series of draconian adjustments with a muscular intervention of the state to the detriment of the private sector. which is currently the bearer of economic growth.

In this perspective and such as what happened to China, India by its structural weaknesses and its social antagonisms, can be the next target under other premises and with different consequences but being able to internalize the same effects on its economy. still emerging in search of international affirmation in terms of trade and financial partnership. Indeed, China continues today to fight against and confront a sudden and brutal stock market depression, financial uncertainties coupled with monetary devaluations. thus causing a cooling of all outward-oriented economic activities.

In this, the fluctuations and the difficulty of having a continuous economic recovery in China can prove to be more disastrous in the Indian economy given the long period of its colonial gestation and its insertion into the peripheral capitalist system, its hesitations vis-à-vis of Western globalism and given the underlying social immobility that has characterized this country for centuries.

What Youssef Chraibi described as the low profile of Indian entrepreneurs and the middle classes, is in fact their mark of prestige and it is typical of the ruling classes in Asia, especially in countries where vassalage from the rest of society is subject to them. . It is a behavior that wants to send the message that all individuals in their society have the same origin and that there is nothing sensational or arrogant to claim, differentiation is measured only at the level of social success and not from class membership.

Reformism and Nationalism within a Liberalism: Mixture of Magic Potions by Narendra Modi

In support of the economy and the population, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government have deployed a series of recovery measures and new laws: social protection programs for the most affected populations, various incentives for SMEs, strengthening infrastructure, strengthening local production policies (“made in India”) or even industrial resilience or self-sufficiency, but also reducing the country’s dependence on China, which could create new opportunities for French companies.

Alongside these measures, other programs have been rolled out: the liberalization and privatization of the agricultural sector to make India an agro-industrial and no longer just an agricultural power, the development and modernization of urban and rail infrastructure, or even the implementation of a 5G network planned for the end of 2021, without Chinese technology.

So many priority sectors (infrastructure, environment, tech, IAA, industrial equipment 4.0), in addition to consumer goods (cosmetics, fashion), in which French and Western companies have the means to position themselves, like the more than 650 French subsidiaries already successfully established in India.

The country has become attractive and gained 67 ranks in 2020, ranking 63rd out of 190 in the Doing Business 2020 report published by the World Bank (ease of doing business index). However, French companies will have to stand out for the unique nature of their offer, to adapt to a versatile, protective market, but with gargantuan volumes.

The 3 Foreign Ministers of India, Russia and China

The other motivation is to have India to join in the condemnation of Russia for its military operations in Ukraine and to be directly involved and supporting the sanctions leveled by the U.S. Government and the European Union against the Russian State and the Russian Elites supporting the key sectors of the Russian Economy. At the same time, the Western authorities, especially the Washington authorities are seeking the support of the New Delhi in their trade and geo-strategic challenges and disputes they are having with China. The diplomatic efforts conducted by the Western heads of States has many fold, rallying India to their cause against Russia but also to torpedo the foundations of the BRICS financial drives while dismantling any alliances that could emerge from such trade and financial integration that can compete against the Dollar and the Euro and the International Trade System actually organized and controlled by large groups of interests and public international entities that are all originated and based in the Western World.

Read more in this publication

Brexit or not Brexit, United Kingdom and European Union in India to Break Ties of the BRICS to Russia

🌎 Said El Mansour Cherkaoui, Ph.D. 🌍 05/05/2022  

Bibliographical Notes:

Census shockers: Imagine all of France in slums and US sans power – The New Indian Express

Census shockers: Imagine all of France in slums and US sans power power/2013/03/24/article1514260.ece

[1] Indian political life has been marked since the 1990s by the alternation of two major . The Congress Party, founded in 1885, is India’s oldest political party. It dominated the Indian political scene at the time of independence and until the 1990s. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), founded in 1980 represents the conservative Hindu right. He won the legislative elections in 1998 and then in 2014. Finally, recent years have been marked by the emergence of regional parties in the various states of India. 

[2]Max Weber, Hinduism and Buddhism, translated and presented by Isabelle Kalinowski and Roland Lardinois, Paris, Flammarion, coll. Fields, 2003, p. 123.

[3] Pitrim Sorokin, Social Mobility, New York, Harper and Brothers, 1927.

[4] Jules Naudet, Castes, untouchability and social success in India, March 13, 2009

[5] /Castes-intouchabilite-et-reussite.html




[9] -articles/international/india-the-middle-classes-the-new-eldorado 


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This work by Dr. Said EL Mansour Cherkaoui is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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