Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Defining India’s NRMB

Calling Indian democracy as a simply vote making drama does not serve enough beyond a point and it’s too naïve if any one does it more than twice in an unprecedented situation like where India is now! For mulling over an idea that will set a new paradigm shift for constructive public discourse, it is necessary to define a new phrase for developmental polity which will encompass sentiments of crores of fellow citizens. In the past, the defining moment has never been taken as granted and there is no exception either now especially when the general elections are due. In a vast country like India-whether you like it or not-the dynamic transitions of various phrases of developmental polity is an extremely interesting phenomena to understand the disjunctions that exist between people and polity and social, economic and cultural narratives in between them.

The fountainhead of any new phrase of polity has to encompass the realities of the living conditions of citizens and common man of that country. The new phrase has to deal with the three pillars: political, economic and social dimensions of the citizens and common man’s life and aspirations which have dynamically shifted upwards most recently and first time since the independence. How far the new phrase of polity captures and reflects the hearts and minds of the citizens and common man actually helps in shaping up of the ultimate aims of another path breaking milestone in the history of developmental polity. In fact, who does it better ultimately reaps the fruits of the winning elections and transforming the country.

In the era of Jawaharlal Nehru, the hard currency of polity was to instill the faith of democratic form of governance and sent strong messages across world. During Indira Gandhi’s period, the focal point of polity was to establish social dimension of developmental polity- Garibi Hatao and nationalization of banks etc. Thereafter, the country did not see any credible trend setter in the developmental polity phrases due to the very nature of fragmented polity. The 80s and 90s had become pre- and post reform periods typically linked with connecting Indian economy to the world economy. The first decade of 21st century did witness some new phrases of developmental polity but the phrase used in the first half of the decade (Shining India) did not gain much attraction as compared to the phrase of the second half (Inclusive Growth).  Hence, India is again at the cross road of the world to make its position debunked and pave new path.

 Against this background, it is really delighting that the time has come to see another trend setter yet excitingly new phrase of developmental polity. The Indian National Congress seems to be pondering over the possibility of coining a new phrase for developmental polity. After carefully studying the politico, economic and social dimensions of the Indian society, the party has decided to take up the term called “Not rich, not-middle class, not BPL” or NRMB as a key strategy for the upcoming elections.

India is home for nearly 122 crore people. The NRMB categories consist about 70 crore people. 70 crore estimate seems to be based on the assumption of per person per month minimum earning of Rs.1,000 as the threshold for poverty which is in line with the official poverty line which is around Rs.960 a month. Further, those who earn between Rs.1,000 to Rs.15,000 are the main junk of the population covered under 70 crore NRMB segment. The BPL population is pegged at 36 crore and the middle class, assuming Rs.1 lakh per person per month as a cut off, is around 16 crore.

The middle class benefits most of its needs directly from liberalisation and is not affected by any shocks like economic, social and political in nature at any point of time in a year. Therefore, the Congress’s key target seems to be the NRMB segments which are just above the poverty line but way below the middle class and not rich certainly. About 34 NRMB segments have been identified including daily wagers, painters, construction workers, carpenters, farm labourers, domestic workers, street vendors, railway porters, fishermen, security guards, weavers, plantation workers, dabbawalas, etc. to give attention for understanding their problems and issues and solve them in coming years.

Most of the NRMB segments are increasingly becoming more and more vulnerable in different parts of the country and nobody seems to be working with them to lift them out of their misery. In fact, most of these segments are facing varied difficulties in terms of lifting their life beyond the BPL level because their voices are not taken into consideration in public policy decision making process. Indeed, these segments are what development experts call union-less people thereby voices-less community. Thus, the time has come for this segment to raise their voice and move upward in the society to live a meaningful life.



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