Arjun Sengupta, Chairman of the National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector, writes about the staggering number and the sorry status of the aam aadmi in India:
... [The] total number of people in India belonging to the poor and vulnerable group having a daily per capita consumption of less than Rs 20 in 2004-05 was 836 million, constituting about 77 per cent of our population. By all means, they constitute our aam aadmi.
You really ought to read that column for an articulation of what our government can -- and should -- do for the aam aadmi.
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I want to take Sengupta's column in a different direction. When you read his column, do keep an eye on the definitions of the six classes (income groups) of people. The middle income group is defined as one with a per capita consumption of around Rs. 37 per day; some 210 million people (19.3 percent) are in this group.
The high income group (which has 43 million people, forming 4 percent of the population) is defined as one with a consumption of over Rs.93 per day. Let's look at this definition: on an annual basis, the per capita consumption comes to about Rs.34,000, or equivalently, Rs. 136,000 for a family of four.
Thus, a monthly consumption of about Rs.12,000 for a family of four makes that family a part of the 'high income group', and puts it in the top four percent of the population. In the government sector, who are the people who earn Rs. 12,000 per month and above?
In India's elite institutions (IITs, IIMs, TIFR, IISc, IISERs, ...), a freshly recruited assistant professor (typical age: under 35, with a Ph.D. and some post-doc experience) starts at a basic salary of Rs. 12,000 per month; the gross salary, with house rent allowance in a metro city, would be between Rs. 20,000 and Rs. 25,000 per month.
If you take lecturers, who are just a step below Assistant Professors (typically about 25-30 years of age, with a masters and above), their salary of about Rs. 15,000 per month would also put them in the 'high income' category. Lecturers are the entry-level employees in all the colleges in India.
Thus, all academics with a regular job (by which I mean a job that pays UGC-approved salaries) belong to the top 4 percent of the population.
Can you think of a developed country where junior faculty members find themselves -- automatically -- in the top 5 percent of the population by income? How do academics fare in, say, China?
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