India's Covid Crisis Decimates Country's Middle Class
Indian economy shrank 7.3% in fiscal year 1920-21, its worst performance since independence in 1947. Nearly 230 million middle class Indians have slipped below the poverty line, constituting a 15 to 20% increase in poverty since Covid-19 struck last year, according to Pew Research. Middle class consumption has been a key driver of economic growth in India. Erosion of the middle class will likely have a significant long-term impact on the country's economy. “India, at the end of the day, is a consumption story,” says Tanvee Gupta Jain, UBS chief India economist, according to Financial Times. “If you never recovered from the 2020 wave and then you go into the 2021 wave, then it’s a concern.”
|India's Economic Performance Since Independence. Source: Bloomberg|
Mainstream Indian media have long been afraid to cover the incompetence and failures of Prime Minister Modi's government. But this is finally changing with the COVID pandemic hitting India's newsrooms. Dozens of Indian reporters and their family members have died after being infected with coronavirus.
|Middle Class Decline in India, China. Source: Pew Research|
The disastrous turn in the situation on the ground couple with the change in media coverage have brought focus on Modi government's failed policies in handling the deepening health crisis and its devastating impact. The images of large numbers of people gasping for breath and dying on the streets for lack of oxygen have shocked the world. The covid crisis has exposed the hollowness of India's super-power delusions fed by the country's western boosters who see it as a counterweight to China. An example of such western propaganda is a recent novel by retired US Admiral Janes Stavirides.
|Increase in Debt-to-GDP Ratio During Pandemic. Source: Business Standard|
Prime Minister Modi's government has taken on significant debt to cope with the crisis of covid pandemic. As a result, India's debt-to-gp has increased 17% to 89.3%, the third highest among emerging economies. By contrast, Pakistan's debt-to-gdp has risen by a mere 1.6% to 87.2% during the pandemic, according to figures released by the IMF.
|Modi's Hindutva Rate of Growth in India|
The authors of "2034: A Novel of the Next World War" portray Indians as heroes whose statesmen-ship de-escalates World War III, negotiates peace and helps India emerge as the new global superpower. Patel, the Indian uncle character of the Indian-American deputy national security advisor Sandeep Chowdhury tells him, "America’s hubris has finally gotten the better of its greatness." The authors imagine the United Nations headquarters moves from New York to Mumbai after the war. Had this book been written after watching thousands of Indian victims of COVID19 gasping for breath and dying daily on the streets of New Delhi, I think Ackerman and Stavridis would have conceived and developed a completely different plot line for their novel.
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