Why the middle class is at the barricades

Corruption yesterday, sexual violence today, the middle class is protesting because its real income has been eroded

The agitation in Delhi and many other parts of the country over the recent gangrape of a young woman (the victim unfortunately died), reminds me of the Anna Hazare-led agitation against corruption. Just as the latter fizzled out in a few weeks' time, I predict that this agitation too will soon fizzle out. And just as the Hazare mobilisation has not led to the reduction of corruption in the country by even 0.1 per cent, so also the present agitation will not lead to anything.

Of course, I would like to see the culprits severely punished under the law. What I have to say, however, is this. First, serious problems are not solved by emotional outbursts such as we are seeing (hyped, no doubt, by many of our TV channels), or even by amendment of the law (as some are advocating), but by great social change. Second, gangrape is not the only serious issue before the nation, as some people seem to be contending. There are several equally, if not more, serious issues facing the nation. For example, massive poverty, high rates of child malnutrition and farmer suicide, abysmal healthcare and education for our masses, massive unemployment, skyrocketing prices, etc. Our TRP-led media does not hype these equally, if not more, serious issues and we seldom see huge crowds of middle-class people at Jantar Mantar or on Ramlila Grounds or at India Gate agitating against these issues.

In my opinion, however, the Hazare agitation and the present agitation against the gangrape are symptomatic of a deeper malady in the country, and it is this: there is great discontent in our middle classes, which is making them go to the streets. What the cause of this deep discontent is, is what has to be examined.

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