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MuSIngs
   Prasoon S Majumdar
Prasoon S Majumdar
Editor, Economic Affairs - The Sunday Indian
[2 Oct 2006]

LIFE & DEBT

The Great Indian Middle Class is being short changed

With an inimitable Indian impulsion of around 14 million maverick middle class Indians already hooked to credit cards, and the numbers expected to increase to the 35 million figure mark by 2010, one can for sure say that we Indians have entered the plastic age. The scenario looks scary as our generation has seamlessly succeeded in embedding the majestic attitude of 'live-for-the-moment'. And in doing so, we have managed to buy momentary plastic happiness at the cost of making our effervescent smiles extinct (lest we should forget that laughter has already been relegated to amnesia). Everything around us has suddenly become so blatantly plastic.

The cult of consumerism and swiping syndrome has been running so deep in our blood that even the thought of 'frugal living' has become sultry (non-enchanting) in an otherwise 'fringe economy'. Frequent flying, shopping till dropping and partying till parting are just a few forms of our 'most happening compulsive overspending orgies'. The most fatal manifestation of this culture has been the strong linkages it has managed to establish between success (both social and economic) and materialism, resulting in an insane penchant to heavily discount future and carelessly spend beyond our present means. Thus creating an environment whereby we have moved from a saver's economy to a typical borrower's economy.

Numbers substantiate the state of this shameless indulgence. The total expenditure on credit cards for 2005 had been an outrageous Rs.330 billion, an increase of over 50% over the previous year, which stood at around Rs.220 billion, and all this at an atrocious interest rate ranging between 2.5% to 3.5% per month. As per the Reserve Bank of India data, the current outstanding balance on credit cards alone, as on 31st March 2006, stands at a whopping Rs.91.77 billion, an increase of around 59% over the previous year. No doubt these figures are exciting for the dream merchants (credit card companies) as they see a huge growth opportunity for further selling myriad 'Alice in Wonderland' products and services, at disproportionate and disguised interest rates. An opportunity that is continuously grabbed (using means like unsolicited and vexatious phone calls, intimidation, confidential information sharing, information misrepresentation) in a Shylockean fashion, wherein each and every Middle Class Indian's economic life is systematically reduced to mere 'counting pay cheques to paying cheques'. And with the ever increasing Equated Monthly Instalments comes the Ever Decreasing Sensitivity, resulting in a complete breakdown of the moral and social structure - plastic friendships, synthetic marriages, cosmetic communities, superficial arrangements etc.

So, amidst the festive frenzy the next time we go out, each one of us has to confront and choose between two conscious propositions: ''Can't Leave Home Without It" or "Can Leave Home Without It," and thereby avoid becoming a vulnerable prey in this predatory and pitiless economic entrapment..


  
 
 
       
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