Forgotten Himmatwalas

A recent article in a leading newspaper described about the two groups vying for attention of political leadership in India. On the one hand, we have the Davoswallahs. These folks are always claiming for more and more liberal economic regime. They claim that the spectacular economic progress of India during the period of 1995-2005 years happened mainly because of embracing the liberal economic thinking supported by these Davoswallahs. However, we also have the Jholawallahs on the other side. These folks are considered activists who are more concerned about distribution of wealth rather than about the creation of wealth. These Jholawallahs propounded schemes which provide food, employment and other rights to poor population. Such schemes cannot be challenged by any political party since all of them want to project an image of themselves as pro-poor folks. When such schemes are implemented, the usual discussion of inefficiency, corruption and economic stress is followed by media as well as by all public forums.

However, between these two groups, one forgets the third group: the middle class which does not belong to either Davoswallahs or Jholawallahs. This group is now more than 300 million-strong in India and is increasing. This group is essentially the salaried class of India. These folks pay taxes or rather taxes are deducted from their salaries. They remain apolitical and do not vote in enthusiastic manner. They give enormous importance to education. They put their kids in good schools and send them to coaching classes. Their only hope is that their children will become educated and get better jobs and go up the economic ladder. They aim to purchase 1 BHK or 2 BHK flats at the end of their career with the support of their children’s income. These folks live on hope and have lots of Himmat. Hence, I would like to call them Himmatwalas. Of course, there is no connection with the Himmatwalas represented in Bollywood by Jeetendra or Ajay Devgan.

The dream of a middle-class, nuclear family is to have two children – one should become a doctor and the other should become an engineer. The family places enormous emphasis on educating the children in as best way as possible. The family also dreams of getting a child in one of the IITs. It is considered as a sure way of moving up the economic ladder since a good job is as good as assured at the end of such an education. If the IIT education is topped with an IIM degree, it is considered even more fabulous. The financial security is enhanced if the young one of the family goes abroad for higher studies or a job assignment. The family with an NRI member or members indeed becomes a financially stable family. Witness the hectic activity of sending packets of sweets abroad around Diwali time in these families. They all throng the courier service offices and send these packets abroad. The young ones are also keen to send the green bucks back home and purchase a flat or make some substantial investment for the family.

These Himmatwallahs do not take risks. They do not get into any business activity. These folks are satisfied with their little isolated worlds. However, the situation does not remain that simple in India. The creation of wealth and distribution of wealth is a giant social enterprise managed by the political-bureaucratic leadership of the country. They slap taxes – income tax, service tax, education cess and so on. They also use these revenues and create schemes like NAREGA, food security, Jawaharlal Nehru Mission and so on. These schemes are funded from the taxes collected from Himmatwallahs.

The Davoswallahs run around the political-bureaucratic class to see if they can get more concessions to start a new business or make more wealth in an existing business. Tax holidays is one such concession they get for sunrise industries like IT services. Getting coal blocks, oil fields, spectrum licenses, infrastructure tenders and acquiring assets of all kinds is a pursuit vigorously followed by Davoswallahs. Of course, they indeed go to Davos in Switzerland during the last ten days of January and discuss about how to plan for the next couple of years.

The Jholawallahs are activists. They make sure that their nuisance value remains high. They are usually good at disrupting the normal life of the society. Agitation is a weapon in the hands of these folks. Sometimes, they are in good books of political-bureaucratic class. Sometimes they are not in good books of these rulers. In any case, these Jholawallahs are members of several committees of government. They generally create reports which can become embarrassment to society at large. They are always keen to show that the development model is very one-sided and does not provide adequate share to the downtrodden people of society. They force the rulers to make sure that schemes are created and funds are allocated for improvement of masses. The funds so allocated are then spent on these schemes. Then some monitoring mechanisms are developed. These Jholawallahs get funds to their NGOs for monitoring these schemes. Most of these schemes are afflicted with corruption. However, the development model is touted as the prime focus of the society.

The Himmatwallahs are neither interested in Davoswallahs nor interested in Jholawallahs. However, the noise created by the triangle of these two groups along with the ruling elite disturbs the peace of Himmatwallahs. Sometimes, the prices of onion rise. Some other times, the inflation is very high. In between, the petrol and cooking gas prices also shoot up. All these disturbances affect the Himmatwallahs. They did not have any significant group to express their views. So, when Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal started their agitation, the Himmatwallahs gave spontaneously a big support. Unfortunately, the situation did not sustain to see any significant transformation.

Now, there is a change in the government. The Davoswallahs are there – very much there. In fact, some of the Davoswallahs are friends with Greencardwallahs who are now managing the finances and economy of the country. These Greencardwallahs have been dropped or parachuted in India from different prestigious universities in America. In turn, these Greencardwallahs are also clear that they will preach the natives so long as their cushy jobs in America are intact. The Davoswallahs are also getting a piece of pie in the defence business now. In short, the Davoswallahs are now looking at more green pastures. The green pastures are created by the Greencardwallahs. Thus, the two are friends. Next time, when they both will meet in Davos, they will discuss about how India is shining since their businesses are growing.

The Jholawallahs are gone once the new government came in. In their place, we now have the Knickerwallahs. These Knickerwallahs are a very committed lot. They are convinced that India was a land of prosperity and high technology thousand years back. That glory can be achieved once again with detoxification of the society and bringing back the true spirits. Only the Knickerwallahs know what the true spirits are and from time to time, they announce these true spirits. The Knickerwallahs are a highly organised lot and they wield sticks once in a while. The Knickerwallahs are not much concerned about either creation of wealth or distribution of wealth. They believe that once the society is truly Indian then wealth will get automatically generated. In any case, the Davoswallahs and the Knickerwallahs get along usually on friendly terms. So, the money matters for these folks excluding the Himmatwalas are fulfilled admirably.

While this dance of Davoswallahs, Knickerwallahs and Jholawallahs is going on, it must be mentioned that the population of the Himmatwalas is growing in India. They want good education, they want decent healthcare, they want some housing and they want financial upward mobility in the society. This diaspora may go to Gulf, this diaspora may go to Europe or America but they are moving upward. They pay taxes. They follow traffic rules. Some of them, during their morning walks, get run over by speeding cars of Davoswallahs. But still, India is mainly the Himmatwallahs.

 

Sanjay Dhande 1Professor Sanjay Dhande is a former director at IIT Kanpur. He is a freelance writer for Pune365 can be reached at sango.dhande@gmail.com. The views expressed here are personal. 

Sanjay Dhande

Sanjay Dhande

Sanjay Dhande is a former director at IIT Kanpur. He can be reached at sango.dhande@gmail.com. The views expressed here are personal. Sanjay Dhande will write every Thursday for Pune365.
Sanjay Dhande

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