Citizens' Issues
Middle class at crossroads

Mere growth of the middle class is not a comfort unless there is an upward movement in the percentage of population which is able to access the minimum comforts of life

It was HG Wells who talked about middle class being pushed down or pulled up to create a world which will have only two classes of people, one living above the ground in luxury and the other living underground. More recently, the Indian Railways had demonstrated the intention of getting rid of “middle class” by offering only first and third class accommodation. Still, long after Wells, and abolition of “second class” by the Indian Railways, the middle class do survive in the dreams of the poor (glorified as BPL category), as they hope one day to cross over the poverty line and become part of the middle class and the wishes of the rich who need a healthy middle class to carry out their orders. What will be the future of middle class in India? 
Who all belong to the middle class? Who knows! Sometime back, ADB (Asian Development Bank) offered a vague definition for middle class, suggesting daily per capita consumption at $2 to $20. Such an approach suits bodies engaged in marketing goods and services and supporting governments in policy formulation. It helps to interpret poverty levels in one way when they want to sell an idea or a product and quite differently when the purpose is comparison among countries for extending benefits or concessions. Needless to say, the concept of poverty or more appropriately put, hunger, also vary depending on the constituency interests of the person explaining it.
Some say, the middle class is growing in India. Mere growth of the middle class is not a comfort unless there is an upward movement in the percentage of population which is able to access the minimum comforts of life like a house to live, facilities to educate children, food security, healthcare and arrangements for looking after the aged and physically/mentally challenged members of the family. Here, even the statistics reach us after the “date of expiry”.
The government, which is generally owned and operated by the upper class (in the economic sense, meaning those who have moved much above middle class) does not encourage a growing middle class. In the preferred situation, governments the world over dream of the prediction made by HG Wells coming true. Not only dream, they are doing everything possible to realize that dream. Governments and people who decide the fates of governments who generally belong to the BPL (Businessmen-Politicians-Lawyers) combine have a vested interest in keeping the majority of people poor and craving even for starvation wages. Only in such a situation the rich and the powerful can sit pretty on the heap of ugly wealth they accumulate. 
All of us have different reasons for making noises and we patiently wait for our turn. Because we are middle class. We don’t have our own voice. We echo the hopes and aspirations of those who are ‘below’ us or more often, carry out the wishes of our masters from the elite intelligentsia and the rich ruling class. We enjoy joining the self-appointed leaders in their fight to raise the poverty line by Rs2 from the present Rs32 per dium or shout with Anna Hazare when he has a problem with corrupt ministers and public servants. 
We trust people when they tell us that corruption is all about government servants and police constables who take bribes and all is well on the other side of the fence where private sector is carrying on honest business. Some recalcitrant boys among us have started questioning anything and everything with an eye of suspicion. They say asset accumulation by union ministers and some politicians is at a much greater pace than the growth of GDP (gross domestic product) and some industrialists who can ‘manage’ things are cornering nation’s resources free or at throw away prices. We keep listening. In between a story is planted that the person making so much noise against corruption herself has claimed a few rupees extra in a travelling allowance bill while in service and what right she has to shout against plundering of lakhs of crores of public funds. We start chasing her.
Workers in the government, public sector and organized sector outside generally belong to the middle class. This category of workers has trade unions or organisations to take up their work-related issues with the employer. Over time, leadership of these organisations have gone to less busy politicians and the governments and managements have successfully broken the organisations into convenient small pieces terribly affecting the bargaining strength of unions. Average worker in the unorganized sector is below or around poverty line and hopes some day to make his or her son or daughter a white-collar employee. Much like some characters in Katherine Boo’s now famous book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers”
The low level of literacy in India is congenial for perpetuating the present situation where 50% of the population will remain poor and hungry, 30% will belong to the middle class aspiring to become rich some day (but will be pulled down to the lower category fast!) and the remaining 20% will enjoy life at the cost of the remaining 80%. That will be the subject for another article!


Don’t hate germs, they are our saviours!

Antiseptics, soaps, and antibiotics have created a new world of killer super bugs—multi drug resistant germs—which are now threatening the world. The world needs deschooling about the benefit of looking after the germs in their natural habitat for our own good in the long run

Louis Pasteur's theory of germs is ridiculous fiction”—Pierre Pachet

Thanks to the soap and antiseptics industry, the whole world is becoming obsessed with the fear of germs. Last night I was watching the TV screen ad of an antiseptic soap in Tamil, which made me think of writing this note. There the child was telling her cat not to come into the house. The mother was watching from behind. The child told the cat “don’t come inside, mummy will hit you.” The mother then takes the child for a bath with that soap telling the child “mummy will hit not the cat but will hit the germs (kirmigalai) with this soap!”

Early this morning I saw the usual sight of the municipal corporation lorry carrying the waste dumps for incineration. The lorry had five workers and a couple of rag pickers who hang on to get some gold in the dumps! One of the women had an infant whom she put on the front seat of the lorry while they were loading the vehicle. They rummage through the contents as if it were some heap of gold! The woman breast feeds the child in between. One cannot pass by that area because of the foul smell. I have been seeing this scene being enacted daily. Despite my pleas to the powers that be the routine has not changed. These people do not have gloves or shoes. They bring their breakfast and eat it while on duty. They keep smoking beedies in between. I have not seen them wash their hands any time!

This also brings to mind the study of asthma in Mumbai slums compared to the best homes there. The ratio of asthma incidence was ten to one in favour of clean kids! The multitude of germs in the slums keeps the children’s immune system robust to avoid asthma. Whereas the child from the wealthy home gets antibiotics for even a common cold, the slum child probably has not come in contact with antiseptics and/or antibiotics, thus keeping its immune system robust. A crawling baby will go to every corner to pick up the dirt to eat! It is hardwired before birth to do that to get germs inside to strengthen the immune system! During delivery the baby acquires trillions of germs of all kinds into its orifices from the mother’s genital tract. Naturally a Caesarean section baby will be poorer to that extent.

For every cell in your body there are nine germ cells. No one could scientifically be proud because s/he has to have those germs bossing over her/him! Human meta-genome has about 25 thousand human genes while it also has 2-3 trillion germs genes. We have been living happily ever after with them inside us. Do not hate them from outside also. They are our friends and saviours indeed! When one takes antibiotics the gut gets depleted of these friends and then we suffer from immune deficiency. Today fatal gut infections are treated by transplanting fresh stools (faeces) from a healthy donor, faecal transplant. If one is lucky to have his mother alive her faeces will cure the fatal infections in minutes to hours! Mother’s gut germs are identical to ours, anyway! Resetting the gut germs is the best way to build our immune guard.

Antiseptics, soaps, and antibiotics have created a new world of killer super bugs—multi drug resistant germs—which are now threatening the world. Sooner we wake up the better. The newer quick dust eating washing powders have another danger lurking in the background. Many of them use bacillus subtilis as their base. This germ generates a protein residue when it works on clothes, etc. This protein is a lung poison. It provokes an incurable lung disease called Fibrosing Alveolitis (cryptogenic) which has no cure!

The world needs deschooling quickly about the benefit of looking after our friends—the germs in their natural habitat—for our own good in the long run. Let children play in the dirt outside in the sun. Simple inexpensive oil-based soap is all that is needed with clean water to wash one’s hands or for taking bath. No antiseptic soaps are needed. They could damage one’s immune system in the long run.

 “A sad soul can kill quicker than a germ”—John Steinbeck

(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also the editor-in-chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at [email protected].)



Bhava Veerubhotla

5 years ago

respected prof hegde
i like you. tou are change maker in healthcare
Maslow hierarchy of Needs.
A. Physiologic needs- looking food , shelter and clothing
B.Esteem needs- craving to be loved , respected and understood by all
C. Self- actualization- Who Am I, what Iam doing, what i can do, What is my duty, Am i Response - able
If you are at stage C you are my friend. call me 919849551183 or mail pharmeds at gmail


5 years ago

dear dr,
there is a product called enterogermina which contains Bacillus it different from what you have said about subtilis? after all, a bacillus is a bacillus!

Vaibhav Dhoka

5 years ago

It is ABLE have to pay hefty price for luxury and UNABLEs get immunity as reward.To save onself the family should minimise watching TV shows which are flooded with GERM FREE advertisements.


5 years ago

Excellent article. Children who live in unhygenic conditions often develop a strong immune system and are physically stronger and healthier than many children who grow up in luxuries.

It's high time people stop getting obsessed with these things and develop a free, clear positive mind. Only then can the resistance power increase.


5 years ago

Very informative article with simple narration. Thank you, Dr Hegde. This morning I was telling my grandson about how crows used to help cows to get rid of itching by eating away some lice on their back,without hurting the cows. There was a time when humans, animals, birds and the environment had a peaceful coexistence. I am still under the hangover of my own article on middleclass. The efforts to ‘get rid of germs’ is almost similar to the efforts of powers that be ‘to get rid of poor’ instead of getting rid of poverty.

NSE follows MCX-SX, cuts transaction fees from 1st October

As correctly predicted by Moneylife, the NSE also announced reduction in transaction charges from next month citing the need to increase liquidity and encourage wider participation of investors

Mumbai: Two days after the privately promoted MCX Stock Exchange (MCX-SX) bourse announced up to 50% lower transaction fees for the prospective broker-members, country's largest exchange National Stock Exchange (NSE) also announced a reduction in its fee, citing the need to increase liquidity and encourage wider participation of investors, reports PTI. Moneylife on Monday has correctly predicted that NSE, the most expensive but richest exchange would soon follow the suit and this may start a bloody price war among exchanges.


The reduced charges, not yet quantified, will be effective 1st October, NSE said in a statement.


"The move will help increasing the liquidity and make transactions cost-efficient, which is expected to bring more investments into the market," an NSE spokesperson told PTI.


The yet-to-be operational MCX Stock Exchange on Monday announced lower transaction charges to the tune of 50%.


The NSE members will be able to set off annual subscription charge of Rs1 lakh per annum against their transaction charges, the bourse said, adding the annual subscription charges are no longer a fixed overhead. "This will give an immediate relief to over 1,400 trading members," an NSE statement said.


In the F&O segment, advance transaction charges are currently being offset against transactions charges of the current year. Whatever is not utilised can be carried forward till they utilize the same.


Just as in the case of rural VSATs etc, where adjustments have been made against transaction charges, the exchange has decided to give benefit of annual subscription charges in the capital market segment.


In 1996, when the cash segment was introduced, charge was Rs10 for a lakh of trade for any traded value. In 2000 it was brought down to Rs4 for traded value above Rs800 crore and Rs7 for traded value up to Rs200 crore.


It was further brought down in 2005 to Rs3.50 per lakh of trade for any traded value and then again in 2009 it was brought down to Rs3.25 for a lakh of trade for traded value up to the first Rs1,250 crore and Rs3 for traded value above Rs15,000 crore.


In the Futures & Options too, the transaction charges have been brought down several times. In July 2001, for both futures and options, fees was levied (after an initial waiver in 2000) at Rs2 for a lakh of trade, the NSE said.


In 2005, charges on options began to be levied on just the premium and not the traded value. In 2009, futures fees was brought down to Rs1.90 per lakh for traded value up to the first Rs2,500 crore and Rs1.75 for traded value above Rs15,000 crore.



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