Surveys can be very confusing, of course. Last year (2011), the Gallup poll found that only 11% Indians were ‘thriving’, Pakistan was apparently doing better, at 20%. This, even though food insecurity is higher and confidence in the government much lower in Pakistan.
In any case, it seems to me that many of us have been lying about our misery. Because, according to another survey conducted by Ipsos Global, Indians are the second-happiest people in the world. Which means that either most Indians surveyed were from the ‘thriving’ class, or else, far too many of us enjoy our suffering.
So much struggling and suffering isn’t hard to believe since we fare badly on most indices of wellbeing. According to the Legatum Prosperity Index, for instance, India was ranked 91 (among 110 nations), because of our low per capita GDP, and the lack of social support.
If you want to know why we lack social support, look at our tax reports. A parliamentary committee, headed by Yashwant Sinha, found that just 4,06,000 taxpayers earn more than Rs20 lakh per annum (in 2010-11). That’s just over 1% of India’s total taxpayer base.
In our national wealth narrative, 88.98% are crammed into the 0-5 lakh income bracket, which means most of us don’t have much that can be taxed. But 1.25% of us sprawl across the 20 lakh+ bracket, and they contribute 63 percent to the personal tax collected. These figures apply to individuals, of course, and not to businesses, but they tell us how suffering (or happiness) works.
Another newspaper has an income-bracket calculator up on its website. You feed in your income, and it tells you where you are on India’s financial ladder. Say, you earn Rs12,000 a month and are the only earning member in your family. You’d still be amongst the top 8.45%.
But the question is, what does Rs12,000 mean? What it means in a village, I cannot say, but in a metropolitan city like Mumbai, it means being dangerously close to poor. It may not translate into going to bed hungry. But it does mean long, exhausting commutes in overcrowded buses and trains. It means not having access to fresh fruit. It means being slightly overweight and malnourished at the same time, since you cannot afford to eat the good stuff.
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