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Your income determines your attitude, your values, your beliefs

February 27, 2009

India’s middle classes are estimated to be about 300m today, a figure expected to double in the coming decades. And along with the economic transition, what is also evident is a transition in value systems. We have always strongly suspected that people who are better off have more of a liberal attitude, or rather, they can afford to have it. This has been confirmed by research initiated by The Economist magazine. It asked the Pew Research Center to go through its past its Global Attitudes database to find out how true or false this assumption is.

Hundreds of people in 13 middle-income countries with large or growing middle classes were studied and the results showed that peopleโ€™s attitudes towards religion, democracy, life satisfaction, homosexuality and the environment did vary according to the income segment they came from. The comparison was made between the middle classes and the poor, not with the rich, as the data on the rich was not considered statistically significant. Another anomaly is that in four countries (India, Brazil, South Africa and Venezuela) the samples were predominantly urban. This would certainly skew the results, but it is interesting nonetheless. It gives pointers to the differences in attitudes between the urban poor and the urban middle class.

The overall difference in attitudes over these income groups was not that dramatic though, as seen in the graph below:

Differences were mostly by an average of about 10 percentage points, but they were less pronounced in India and in some countries where the samples were predominantly urban.ย  When it came to attitudes towards specific issues, the difference in attitude was considerably narrower when it came to attitudes towards democracy. It was found that large sections of the poor in all countries favoured democracy even though all did not live in democratic countries.

It was attitudes towards religion, homosexuality and environment that differed most significantly between the poor and the middle classes, with the better off being less religious, more concerned about their environment and less rigid about sexual mores.

Who are the middle class?

Those who earn approximately between Rs 200000/Rs 2 lakhs ($4,376) and Rs 1 million/Rs 10 lakhs ($ 21,882) per year are the middle class. This has been adjusted to the lower prices in India because this income does not constitute the middle class in the United States. The Pew research however took a more conservative estimate and their cut-off for the middle class was an annual earning power of 17000 US D = 8,47,450 Indian Rupees.

At the lower end, the middle class consists of youngsters just joining the job market, middle level executives to small businessmen. These people usually have food and shelter and also own many consumer durables, including a vehicle. However they live on a tight budget.

At the upper end of the middle class spectrum are those who own larger businesses, senior officials and well paid professionals. They can afford luxuries, regular vacations and almost invariably own a four-wheeler.

The poor fall into different groups as well. Households earning less than Rs 200,000/2 lakhs ($4,376) per year but more than 90,000 ($1,969) are considered the poor, but they are at the higher end of the poor spectrum. They comprise the small shopkeepers, farmers with small landholdings or semiskilled industrial and service workers. They lead a hard life but usually have enough food and might even own the inexpensive consumer durables, often bought second-hand. Most of their income is spent on necessities.

Those who earn below Rs 90,000 a year are considered the deprived ($1,969 per household, or about a dollar per person per day) and these include subsistence farmers, unskilled laborers who often struggle to find work. They used to comprise about 90 percent of the population about 25 years ago but today are just over 50 percent of the population. This percentage is still huge, but expected to steadily decrease over the coming decades.

So the comparison is basically between those who earn up to Rs 2 lakhs per annum and those who earn between Rs 2 lakhs and Rs 8 and a half lakhs. ($4,000 to 17,000).

In India we have been seeing many clashes the last several years between different groups, and the issues range from gay rights, freedom of speech, film censorship, the rights of women, right to go to pubs, and overall about individual freedom. There are those who intensely fight for the environment and there are large sections of the populace who remain indifferent. Partly, this is a class struggle, as shown in the differing views of income groups. What is interesting however is that the average attitude difference in India between the urban middle classes and the urban poor (as shown in the first graph) is not very significant. I wonder if it is this very thing which is disturbing to the extremist elements in both the poor and the middle classes.

(Graphs are from Pew Research and the dollar-rupee conversions are approximates)

Related Reading: Growth is not leading to development in India
Lack of Education infrastructure fueling poverty
The go-getting Buntys of India
Societies that are traditional + affluent have low birth rates
The gap between the rich and the poor in India is not that wide
Instead of making the rich poorer lets make the poor richer
India to be fifth largest consumer market by 2025
Is poverty declining in India?

63 Comments leave one →
  1. February 27, 2009 1:39 pm

    OMG! In a lighter vein, I recall this quote

    It is our attitude more than our aptitude that determines our altitude!”

    So, at the end of the day it boils down to income! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

  2. February 27, 2009 3:44 pm

    Ya..Now with the income divide getting erased, who will the Right-wingies, now pay and ask to create disturbance and destruction??? ๐Ÿ˜€

  3. thoughtroom permalink
    February 27, 2009 4:44 pm

    The correlation between economy and psychology seems quite absurd, at least according to me! I wonder if the study or you took into consideration that an economic situation is dynamic, and not a constant. Perhaps better economy means better access to education, and then to better understanding and more tolerance. But I have always felt that that too was a variable factor and not a constant. Money just gives people a chance to highlight their views, it does not initiate a change!

    • February 27, 2009 6:12 pm

      I personally believe strongly in the corelation. Actually the differences are more evident with the rich and the poor rather than the poor and the middle class. I am not moralising here by saying that the rich have a better attitude because they can go to the other extreme. Overall I think middle class values are moderate and I personally have them. Well, I mean I live my life by them but at the same time I have a very strong live and let live kind of policy.

      • thoughtroom permalink
        February 27, 2009 7:00 pm

        If I take a page in my life, I find things quite the opposite, The attitude that you mention is perhaps more to do with the company you kept, which in turn had a relation to the economic status you where in. But I have lived my life among narrow minded and gregarious people, who if I calculate fell in equal ratio among the middle class. But then I see my time line through a series of economic changes, which never had any change in the way the people through these up heaves felt. My prejudices have perhaps been influenced by my economic status, but it has been more due to the influences in my life, whose economic status I never considered. I have met and learned from people who were of varying economic status, and so I conclude does the world!

        • February 27, 2009 8:55 pm

          Actually Meenakshi even when people change their economic status the values with which they were brought up mostly remains. And in fact when you mention words like “narrowminded” etc to refer to a set of people, I think we are talking of two different things. I am at no point being judgmental by calling any group narrowminded. I am not questioning anyone’s values. Also this has nothing to do with the kind of company I kept. What I talked about, attitudes being associated with class is a well established sociological concept. It is nothing new and orginal. You may not agree with it but that is another matter.

          • thoughtroom permalink
            February 27, 2009 9:34 pm

            I meant narrow minded, as in apposed to liberal thinking, be it political, religious or cultural. Sorry but now I am at loss as to what you implied. I am surprised that you think that economic status of people do not change!

            • February 27, 2009 9:44 pm

              Where have I said that economic status of people does not change? I really think yu have not understood what I said. Also I have not said anywhere that people are the opposite of liberal, they may be more liberal or less liberal. They need not be the other extreme. They could ofcourse be, but they equally may not be.

    • February 27, 2009 11:19 pm


      That there is no connection between economics (rather than the economy, which is a fluid concept and ebbs and flows) and psychology is inaccurate.

      Traditionally, economic theory assumed a “homo economicus” who is able to make rational decisions and is driven by self-interest. Research over the last 20-25 years challenged this basis of economic analysis, driven among other changes by cognitive psychologists who have studied human judgment and decision-making. The Nobel Prize for Economics in 2002 went to two specialists who combined psychology and economics: Daniel Kahneman and Vernon Smith.

      Kahneman’s research showed that people are fundamentally incapable of analysing complicated decision situations. So they use rules of thumb (heuristic shortcuts) to make their decisions. This is called bounded rationality. Combined with limited self-interest and limited self-control this means that humans’ attitudes are not always ‘rational’ as economics tends to assume.

      Most problems, incl the environment and politics etc, boil down to economics. People’s attitudes are shaped by a ‘what’s in it for me’ kind of analysis which they are incapable of completing rationally. So the psychology of their social class, peer group and immediate life considerations do determine their attitudes on these topics.


      Returning to the topic of this post, I have reservations about the title. Income can _correlate with_ the attitudes expressed in a survey but it does not _determine_ the attitude. The post title suggests dynamicity in values or attitudes.

      But, further down in this conversation, you say that ‘values do not change with income’. That is, values do not dynamically change. Which is not what sociologists believe according to the Pew survey report. The report however is not a longitudinal research and it does not capture the ‘economic dynamicity’ or social mobility of the respondents so assigning causality of liberal attitudes to income may be a stretch.

      So I am a bit confused.

      As I mention above, individual attitudes to politics or the environment are essentially economic issues. People try and assess ‘what’s in it for me’ or the utility. The views expressed may not be entirely rational because these are complicated issues. Equally in surveys, responses may be skewed by the interviewee’s perception of an impressive answer.

      Not sure I agree with the implied causal relationship… :-/

      • thoughtroom permalink
        February 28, 2009 1:37 am


        What about attitudes that exist because of habit? ( I do this because I have always done it. or because I have inherited it. Surely a large part of humanity live such a life) even when it might not boil down to any kind of gain. Are such attitudes only of marginal importance ? And now I have to introspect if the rollercoaster that is my attitude has any thing to do with all the credit cards I have or donโ€™t have ๐Ÿ˜‰

        • February 28, 2009 1:42 pm


          Why people do not change their attitudes, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary, is exactly what bounded rationality is about. The realities of issues are so complex that in any decision-making – and in daily life, we do not have the luxury of time to ponder issues in much detail hence the rules-of-thumb – things are prioritised, dropped out of consideration or not otherwise included due to various interested parties’ agendas.

          Even the humanity that appears to live a life of habit _considers_ their decisions every day. The process is affected by the limits of human brain power (this has nothing to do with education etc, just the sheer consideration that _all_ the elements of a problem may need and human inability to process all of them together and not by reducing them to a 2X2 matrix).

          The ‘rollercoaster’ will unravel itself as a series of economic choices that are relevant to your context. The decision to take or not take credit cards is one such decision indicative of the ‘attitudes’. Which is why I said to Nita above that income (or proxy indicators) may correlate but are not causal explanations of attitudes.

      • February 28, 2009 7:32 am

        Shefaly, I do agree with what you say, but what I said was in response to Thoughtroom. What I meant to say is that values may not change or may change. I am not sure myself as to how often they change. For example take a person like Laxmi Mittal. He was brought up middle class. I think he still has some of his middle class values even though he is the richest Indian. But then I guess he must have changed to some extent, but has he really changed to the core of his being? And about the title, it was just a catchy title. The post does not actually say exactly that. ๐Ÿ™‚

        • February 28, 2009 1:44 pm


          Got it. ๐Ÿ™‚

          As for Lakshmi Mittal, yes, their expense on a huge bordering on obscene weddings for their kids are a sign of truly “middle class” values. With his kind of money, he could afford not to care one jot what others think but clearly he does and tries to impress them through a dog-and-pony show never seen before ๐Ÿ˜‰

          Shefaly, your comments went into moderation and I have been in touch with the wp people too about this problem. It does seem that more than one smiley or even too many dashes etc has this effect. I have in any case now changed my moderation to allow one link as the wp people suggested that. Sorry for the trouble. – Nita.

          • Vivek S. Khadpekar permalink
            February 28, 2009 8:14 pm


            I thoroughly endorse WP’s decision on smileys. It’s more than a bit disappointing to realise that some people visiting blogs cannot recognise a joke unless it is tagged as such ๐Ÿ™‚ [just this once, I’ll use one, though I don’t need to.]

            • February 28, 2009 10:23 pm

              Sometimes sarcasm and humor is lost on the internet, even between people that know each other pretty well. Now imagine the same scenario when you don’t know the person at all! I am all for using smileys (or other indicators) as long as it isn’t excessive, or used to hide malice.

              • February 28, 2009 10:29 pm

                I think it will be wondeful if non-WP users (and non bloggers) also get an avatar image from Gravatar that will show next to their comments.

          • February 28, 2009 8:46 pm

            @ moderation/smilies

            I think it’s still arbitrary and we can’t pinpoint the causes to smilies/dashes. Two innocuous comments by the same person on my blog went to the spam queue (though moderation is not an issue on my blog).

            Mr. Vivek’s celebration is premature! WP has not proscribed smilies. ๐Ÿ˜€

            However, it is fact that smilies sometimes clutter up the space and are eyesores. People are increasingly using smilies as an aid to the language/comprehension and more often than not it is incongruous or redundant.

            Smilies do delight, just the same! In my opinion moderate use is advised and not throwing the baby out with bath water.

            • February 28, 2009 9:48 pm

              More than smileys/dashes, it is the mistake that the software makes by reading them as links because of the dots and dashes! My advise to everyone is – don’t set your moderation to moderate all comments with links, because this means that the filter becomes very sensitive!

          • thoughtroom permalink
            March 4, 2009 3:42 am

            I had always thought that such an attitude was more due to cultural and emotional reasons, that had only a vague and indirect economic connection. Two people of the same economic positions (make it siblings- who share an economic history) could still have a different attitude, based on their interpretations of their experiences can’t they? (I did not realise I was this interested in this subject- I have to read up more on this! thanks Nita for this topic)

            • March 4, 2009 4:07 am


              When determining causal relationships, one does not keep “constant” the variable they wish to study. Your example of two siblings sharing “economic history” is doing the opposite of what is needed to study the causal relationship between income and social attitudes. It’s just the wrong way to go about it.

              To determine (ideally) the relationship between income and attitudes (both being variables), one must attempt to nullify all other variables (perhaps such as prevalent social attitudes, religious tendencies etc), which attempts to make them into a constant. Only then, can you study how income affects attitudes. But since human behavior is for all practical reasons, random, a study such as this can only reveal trend.

              If a similar experiment were to be carried out, say on electric current, it would be experimental proof of the causality (because you can physically maintain one of the variables as constant during the entire duration of the experiment).

              I hope this makes sense, and I have tried to avoid too much jargon (if any).

              • thoughtroom permalink
                March 4, 2009 8:15 am

                I think I understand. Thank you , all of you.

  4. February 27, 2009 5:20 pm

    I agree Nita.

    When the men who attacked the girls in Mangalore declared that they would like to know if the girls in Mangalore had their parents’ permission to wear noodle straps and drink, it was obvious which income bracket they were speaking(appealing) to.

    Attitudes are related to how much freedom and liberal thinking we can ‘afford’.
    Insightful, brilliant post!

  5. February 27, 2009 6:02 pm

    Is this a sponsored post ๐Ÿ™‚ ? Earlier your blog had a lot of variation and I loved it.

    Destination Infinity

    • February 27, 2009 6:09 pm

      Thats very funny DI! I regularly write about articles from the Economist and about Pew research as well. I don’t work for them though! ๐Ÿ™‚ However this post is very different from my tuesday’s post or even my movie review! I think I am writing less overall so you get that impression.

      • February 27, 2009 8:03 pm

        Yeah Nita. You are writing less. There is only one solution for this – Come back to your frequency ๐Ÿ™‚

        “Fortune doesn’t change men. It unmasks them” – This is my opinion on this topic.

        Destination Infinity

  6. February 27, 2009 7:58 pm

    This is an interesting debate, Nita.

    Actually this is one theme in Slumdog Millionaire.. Can an economically poor person be mentally, emotionally, and spiritually rich? I say yes! The movie proved some of this, but it really depends on the attitude of the person.

    I do agree that there are many poor people in different countries (I am familiar with India and US) who feel suppressed because they don’t have money. Some of this is their own mindset that is promoted by their families, friends circle and society, some of this is by what they refuse to question about society (ie. can an economically poor person do this, that, the other?).

    I can tell you this from my personal experience. I grew up dirt poor in US. Sometimes our family did not have food on the table. Despite that, and despite the fact I grew up in a small town with only Caucasians, I accepted all religions, all races, all people. I like to learn from everyone. It is this quest for knowledge and open mindedness that not everyone in similar circumstances to me had (or I can say for economically richer people, also, depends on the person) while I was growing up that I believe contributes to the wealth I have in all areas of my life (economic, educational, spiritual, health, family, social, etc. etc) today. It is this yearning to accept and understand others (as people did not accept and understand me as a child because I was poor, and even excluded from school activities simply because of it) that bought me to India to learn about life there, and eventually marry inter culturally. I strive everyday to accept others simply as they are and to promote their natural talents, because I believe no matter their economic situation, promoting natural talents (that can be as simple as loving others, that doesn’t require money) builds wealth of all kinds.

    • February 27, 2009 9:01 pm

      Jennifer, ofcourse you are right, finally it depends on the individual. But if one takes the attitude of say 7 people out of 10 in any class, their attitudes about things have a similarity. There are always those 3 people who are different. Sociologists and psychologists tend to come to conclusions based on the majority view. For example there is every likelihood that 7 out of 10 middle class people will be religious but you will nto find the same proportion amongst the rich.

  7. wishtobeanon permalink
    February 27, 2009 8:05 pm

    Hi Nita, I visited the links in your post and was surprised to see that the percentage of people(the middle class in India)that thought that religion was important was more than the pecentage that wanted honest elections or a good democracy. I guess that speaks a lot for the condition we are in right now.

    • February 27, 2009 9:02 pm

      90% of Indians are religious and most of them are either poor or in the middle class.

  8. vasudev permalink
    February 27, 2009 9:20 pm

    nita…very well evaluated! the whole thing comes out in the heading itself.

    just to share an experience of today, i was driving down the flyover after santacruz airport. had to take a turn to reliance energy. was waiting at the signal when something happening below the flyover drew my attention. it was a large family and they were having their lunch. a poor hindu family sheltering under the flyover. the lady in charge had a bowl of cooked rice with her and another bowl of dal. there were approximately 8 children sitting round her. there was one younger lady with a child standing there. she was given her small portion in a neat plate. likewise every child accepted small divisions of the rice and dal in their individual plates (the food covered barely a quarter of the plate!…barely…).

    ok…that is the background. now how do i connect this with imbibed values/respect for the supreme/ outright generosity/…under the flyover, within their domain and kept on a stand presided lord ganesha. none…and absolutely none (not even the small children) touched even a morsel of their food (probably the only meal in a day!) until the lady got up with a plate of rice and dal and kept it in front of lord ganesha and then only did everyone eat…

    well…by this time my signal was through! ๐Ÿ™‚

    i think this event blends well with at least some of the thoughts you have placed here.

  9. February 27, 2009 9:45 pm

    A well researched post, yet again!

    “…Those who earn approximately between Rs 200000/Rs 2 lakhs ($4,376) and Rs 1 million/Rs 10 lakhs ($ 21,882) per year are the middle class…”

    Are we comparing this to the earning in metros? A salary of close to 1 lakh Indian ruppees is big money else where in India. Saving almost 80k rupees everymonth will make the person a millionaire in 10 years!! Simple arithemetic!!

    Anyway, keep blogging!

    • February 27, 2009 9:58 pm

      Those who earn 70-80K and above are indeed the rich as you said. They are on the borderline, between the rich and the upper middle class. However people who earn that much rarely save most of their salary as it is spent on real estate, childrens education, marriages, foreign vacations etc.

  10. February 27, 2009 10:14 pm

    I agree ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. February 28, 2009 1:10 am

    Nita, if liberal attitude means more egalitarian attitudes towards women and other disadvantaged groups, then the findings of this research can be contradicted by a simple example, which I have used before.

    Haryana: Average income: 48000 Rs, Sex Ratio: 861
    Andhra Pradesh: Average income: 30000 Rs, Sex Ratio: 980

    While these stats are no doubt partly due to the actions and attitudes of the governments in the respective states, it does show that having higher incomes need not lead to more ‘liberal’ attitudes.

    If you change your definition of liberalism to a greater acceptance of pluralism, you might find that the wealthier Indians are actually less liberal than their poorer fellow citizens, but I may be incorrect.

    • rags permalink
      February 28, 2009 12:31 pm

      I agree. I have seen too many middle class Indians harboring right wing religious tendencies. They wouldn’t exactly join a mob (for which the poor are always used), but they’d support the act. I wouldn’t call these people liberal. Also if you’ve noticed most of the religious riots happen in big cities, not in rural areas. And also in sociological studies it’s been proved that people’s attitudes do change as their income changes. So I guess there are a lot of factors (most important of all, the way you were brought up) that determines our attitude.

  12. openlight permalink
    February 28, 2009 3:27 am

    Income has an effect on lifestyle, individual’s expenditure is affected ( increase for rich or decrease for poor) but, attitudes are developed by environment individual is in and experiences of the individual had undergone.

    Hence, according to me irrespective of income, attitude does not change, skewed sex ratio is an example for to consider.

  13. February 28, 2009 12:08 pm

    If it makes any sense, I have seen people’s attitude, change when their income changed within a span of 2-3 years.

  14. February 28, 2009 1:15 pm


    Clicked on your post while searching something on net.

    I like reading your article and at first I was marvelled to see such a blog. You have a gift of writing keep up the good work. I’ll be back soon to read more.


  15. February 28, 2009 5:35 pm

    You know, I always thought that there had to be some relationship between the standard of living and attitude towards religion and morality!

    Thanks a ton for doing this post and pointing out the research.

    I think, the research is definitely valid and there is indeed a strong co-relation between the two mainly because I guess, a better std. of living would mean better education and awareness of the world which translates into higher tolerance.

    There would of course be certain exceptions but broadly, I guess this research somehow points to the possible solutions, only if people understood.

  16. February 28, 2009 5:47 pm

    There’s also a brilliant book I read some time back “Collapse – How Societies choose to fail or suceed” which analyses how and why civilisations collapse because they put undue burden on the environment that supports them.

    One of the chapters in the book was on the genocide in Rwanda. It explored the reasons and suggests that population explosion was one of the reason for the hatreds in the minds of the people and this was vented out by the wave of killings and violence which were termed as “sect” related. However, the truth of the matter was and I still can’t forget the line “those whose kids didn’t have slippers to wear, killed those whose kids went to school wearing shoes”.

    The thesis by the author – Diamond explains that there is definitely a relation between such instances and poverty which results from population and over-exploitation of the limited resources.

    This research also, I guess treads on the same path somewhat.

  17. vasudev permalink
    February 28, 2009 10:52 pm

    i come from a state where erstwhile radicals fighting against capitalism have become later day capitalists fighting against radicals.

  18. March 1, 2009 4:08 am

    “…Households earning less than Rs 200,000/2 lakhs ($4,376) per year but more than 90,000 ($1,969) are considered the poor, but they are at the higher end of the poor spectrum…”

    I always thought my family would fit in the lower middle class. but now we’re officially poor? . I never felt that way though, had decent clothes, food and my dad somehow managed to put both me and my brother through engineering.
    my brother would be joining a good IT company that’ll take us to the upper middle ๐Ÿ™‚

    but i by myself belong to the deprived and i am the libertarian kind.

    I think the statistics are mostly right. More money less religious/cultural seems logical. but india is a puzzling place and its culture runs pretty deep.

    I have rich friends who are religious, highly conservative, the kind which might not support a mangalore-like incident. but will “understand” why it happened and have poor friends who have sweared before me they will raise their children with the utmost freedom which they themselves were denied.
    So i think its a bit complex as far as india is concerned.

  19. March 1, 2009 10:30 pm

    Nita, I guess attitudes can change even with a whiff of prosperity,

    I feel sad that these kids will most likely never even have the chance to immigrate to America, unless they are ‘useful’ somehow.

    • March 2, 2009 8:56 am

      Thanks vikram. that made very interesting reading!

    • vasudev permalink
      March 2, 2009 8:23 pm

      the govt of india should consider booking the director/producer etc. of slumdog millionaire for employing under 14 children as ‘actors’ without proper recompensation/share in the profits.

      why should these children continue to live in slums after having won oscars and having made a third rate movie into a tremendous hit?

      the least i expect them to be given is at least a three bedroom flat in bandra with proper schooling and a monthly retainer of an amount not less than a lakh of rupees for the rest of their lives.

      • March 3, 2009 11:59 am

        You have perhaps not followed the developments closely. The Director set up a trust fund for the kids but the boy actor’s father wants all money now since he has TB and he says he would rather enjoy it now.

        As for the government taking them to task, perhaps we need to look inward first. The number of children employed illegally in the clothes and carpet manufacturing industries in India is eye-watering, not to mention the domestic, unorganised sectors. So let’s not get over-excited just because a white guy is involved. Our own house needs to be put in order before we can start getting holy on others!

        • vasudev permalink
          March 3, 2009 2:33 pm

          i spoke with a reason (may not be research based)…the booted-suited child actors won oscars in plush hotels abroad after having enjoyed a/c room comforts, vip treatment and top-class cuisine. after returning back to the filth of their slums in india promptly one of them fell ill with 103 deg fever and the neighbours had to rally round to even construct a shelter for the child!

          i would have expected those children to return to better living spaces than the slums of bandra! imagine the psychological shock mere 8 yr olds could have. one moment in fairy land, the next, back to dirt!

          employing children under 14 is an offence now, whether in carpet industry or otherwise. of course in certain pockets, corruption can over-rule the rules but the govt is getting stricter on many things and we may be able to curb this menace as well.

          whether a white or a brown or a black…i do not get excited by race or color. there was an earlier news that these children were paid pittance and their parents had protested. maybe these guys have become magnanimous (if at all) following such complaints and fearing a back-lash from the much more human rights conscious western world?

          • March 3, 2009 11:54 pm

            Employing children under 14 is completely legal (subject to other clauses). From you statement it sounds like Child Labour (Child<14) is “banned”. That is just not true.

            What the makers of Slumdog did was perfectly legal. The controversy that has arisen, has been primarily in the west, where people found out that the kids recd. a few hundred/thousand dollars for the years work, which is definitely appallingly low by US standards.

            Just to clarify my position on this, there is no legal issues in this. But I do agree, that the makers of Slumdog were being “slightly” opportunistic when they cast these kids in their movie. And the only way people could have done anything was perhaps to bring the plight of these kids more media attention and before the Oscars.

            P.S. Darsheel Safary is only 13 (as of 9th March this year). He was only 12 during the release of Taare Zameen Par. I am curious as to what you think should be done with Aamir Khan and the makers of that movie since child labor is “illegal”.

            • vasudev permalink
              March 4, 2009 11:20 am

              this link adequately explains the conditions of illegality and the prohibited age:
              theatre/places of entertainment are covered in the prohibited clauses.
              it is for some ngo to take-up the case with the consent of the child actors but lack of adequate knowledge and the fear of losing in future plus lack of money to fight a case…all might suppress such an adventurous decision.

              it was adequately reported in newspapers that the children were paid the ‘minimum wages’…a paltry amount in comparison to the profits. i have my objection to that.

              frankly i am not a keen movie buff. what caught my attention in ‘slumdog millionaire’ was the fact that someone projected india as a place of slums and dogs while they never ever projected india for all its other glories. if you say this guy who acted in some amir khan movie was under aged then i think the govt has the provision to adequately seek justice.

    • March 3, 2009 12:10 am

      This was the very point I made in Nita’s earlier post about Dharavi. Many of these people just don’t know any better, don’t know about the circumstances they live in, of the shit they live in (pun intended). And people take their ignorance to be a choice.

      These kids prove (to a certain extent) my point.

      I am curious as to how these kids were employed. Isn’t there an actors union in Bollywood or something similar?

      As for the “retainer”, one lakh per month for a year is a lot more than a lot of established actors make. And for their whole life? Why?

      P.S. Actors don’t get a share of the profits. They get paid, and that is it. Although I agree, they should get paid, I disagree only to the degree of “compensation”.

    • March 3, 2009 12:14 am


      “I feel sad that these kids will most likely never even have the chance to immigrate to America, unless they are โ€˜usefulโ€™ somehow.” (Emphasis added)

      I am curious as to who gets to immigrate to America unless they are useful. The graduate students that are granted student visas to the US, or employees on their H1Bs are getting those only because they are useful. Are you trying to say that Americans (or any country for that matter) must take in “useless” people as well to maintain a balance?

      I just had to clarify this, since it struck me as highly absurd.

      • March 3, 2009 12:00 pm

        I think America has its own share of home-grown, purebred, native “useless” people aplenty to balance whom they import useful people ๐Ÿ˜‰

  20. Chirag Chamoli permalink
    March 2, 2009 9:59 am

    I agree with this, if a nations, basic hygiene( Roti, Kapara, Makan) is taken care of we’ll see people move towards a better society and more welcoming to ideas. India still suffer from this pocked growth which is making this really uneven for folks to enjoy the “Modern India”. Money in bank also translates in a certain confidence.

  21. March 2, 2009 5:42 pm

    Moreover, no one’s satisfied!! I earn decently, but I am never satisfied… Maybe this brings to the whole equation an organic element, that tips the scale… ๐Ÿ™‚

  22. March 2, 2009 7:16 pm

    wonderful blog yours..congrats first..well, i have lived on a 5th fl flat single room without proper water supply in mumbai. and that with my wife and 2 daughters. so i can comment on this subject easily. now i am in a foreign country and earn much better. am i happier? well, i was happy then, i am happy now. sometimes i feel those days were better, and then the other way. all in the mind. the swings of happiness and distress, scriptures say, are like summer and winter. v cant escape. that’s how the mind works. and money plays a part. not all the part. what say? take care cheers

  23. March 3, 2009 12:25 am


    I think people have a tough time understanding statistics. I think statistics should be made a compulsory subject in school.

    Here is why:

    These statistics are there to generate a probabilistic correlation. They are not “laws” but are predictions. Like any prediction, they can be wrong.

    Also, people tend to disagree with statistics based on the anomalies. Somewhere in the body of comments you will find someone saying that some people’s attitudes get narrower with increasing income. They fail to realize that there are other factors at play as well.

    Anyway, statistics is such a beautiful subject (unfortunately I am not very good at it), that more often than not, statistics get it right. Sure, there are times it gets it wrong, but that is like everything in life.

    People agreeing with Stats or not doesn’t make a difference. The statistics indicate trend and whoever finds the research sufficiently useful will use it.

    P.S. Statisticians have a huge say in understanding the numbers. Two statisticians with the same data could end up with differing hypothesis.

    • March 3, 2009 8:42 am

      You have put it well DD. Whenever I write about research I find that some people automatically assume that either the stats are carved in stone (and therefore either vehemently agree or disagree) or they think that I think they are carved in stone. Research always gives you pointers and trends, and are always to be taken with a pinch of salt. That is a given, at least for me. I personally can never understand it when people want to trash studies from reliable agencies without giving it a thought.

  24. March 3, 2009 11:25 am

    Certainly,income does decide one’s attitude.Income(money)is a very important part of one’s total life cycle.Be it India, Brazil or US.Change of attitude is in direct proportion to your economic status….if one changes,so does the other.Look, before the call centres came into existanse,a graduate who was looking at employment at any cost,suddenly was being payed much more than his expectations.Don’t you think that there would be a change in attitude??Attitude is a state of mind which keeps fluctuating depending upon one’s income

  25. Vinod permalink
    March 3, 2009 12:43 pm


    I may be repeating what DD and you said earlier. Statistics such as these explain broad trends (and that too in a probabilistic manner) in a collectivity. The problem that people have with it start when they use these trends to explain their individual lives or the lives of other individuals around them. Statistics cannot be used that way. At best it may help them spot patterns of behaviour over a number of people that they have met over time, provided that number is sufficiently big and diverse to be close in similarity to the sample used in the statistical study.

    • March 3, 2009 2:59 pm

      Ofcourse that is so. Stats are always about majorities and minorities, not individuals, but as you and DD mentioned, at times people take try to apply it to their individual lives which may not always work.

  26. Vinod permalink
    March 3, 2009 12:44 pm

    I am pretty bad at statistics too. Someday, I hope to take a second stab at it to wrap my mind around it.

  27. March 3, 2009 2:32 pm

    Though it is not right to stereotype people, but many times, the socio-economic-ethnic data directly or indirectly can be indicative of some attitudes or beliefs that a person may hold. It is rather complex, I feel.

  28. March 13, 2009 10:56 pm

    I think it is mainly because of access to knowledge and to acquire knowledge is one’s own choice, be it in any class. Of course, at some point finances play the role in providing those access to knowledge, which is why the result that we see in these graphs.

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