First, they stole our PF; now, they’re robbing us to buy votes with IIT seats

I thought they had done with us for this year when they mugged us and stole our provident fund. That was a high crime, but the government doing it made it legit. You know, if you borrowed from a bank, and then unilaterally deferred the pay-by date by 20 or 30 years, you would have been hauled in for payment default.

But the government defaulted on its PF promise without a by-your-leave. Unapologetically. It rewrote the rules retrospectively, unilaterally. Why?

Why does a tiger hunt? Because it is hungry, its stomach is rumbling. The government must have been insolvent, I guess; it does not tell me. It must have been in deep financial distress, absolutely desperate. Worse than the ’91 crisis, perhaps.

Then, maybe the tiger analogy is unfair—to the tiger. The government raids the middle class like Gabbar Singh. Sometimes it is “Lagan badha do,” at others, “loot lo.” Sarkar has a gargantuan appetite that even gastric bands cannot lessen. It raids repeatedly, inexorably.

Do you remember the old MasterCard catchline: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.” Our government’s take on it is: There are some people (farmers, businessmen, for instance) you can’t tax; for everything else, there’s the middle class.

Have you seen sugarcane juiced? It passes between rollers without resistance the first time. Then it is bent and passed again, with a little resistance. Bent again, passed again. Again and again till the cane doth protest too much. Then, the mulch is thrown away, and usually burnt as fuel.

To the government, the middle class is the human equivalent of cane. A cash crop. Grows with minimal bother and provides easy pickings season after season. The middle class has been bent in the middle, then at the knees, then at the neck… It has been bent beyond recognition, yet continues to yield juice.

Do you remember the old MasterCard catchline: “There are some things money can’t buy. For everything else, there’s MasterCard.” Our government’s take on it is: There are some people (farmers, businessmen, for instance) you can’t tax; for everything else, there’s the middle class.

Back home, there’s a Punjabi saying I learnt in college: “khada pita lahe da, baki Ahmed Shahe da” (what you eat and drink is yours, the rest Ahmed Shah Abdali will take). So we have to live with the government’s depredations, such as the recent decision to double fees at the IITs.

I am not complaining about the fee hike. If Rs 8 lakh is what a four-year BTech should cost, I am all for paying it. But when 50% of the students in the various reserved categories have been exempted from paying all fees, the other half is clearly paying for two.

Rhetorical question: how can the government take us for granted?

Hahaha, as if we have a choice.

You know what it takes to make the cut in JEE? I’m sure you know how middle-class families suspend their lives in the high-school years so that their children can get through an Indian Institute of something. No play, no holidays, balancing tuitions and school. Some can’t take the stress and kill themselves. Eighteen aspirants killed themselves in Kota last year.

Back home, there’s a Punjabi saying I learnt in college: “khada pita lahe da, baki Ahmed Shahe da” (what you eat and drink is yours, the rest Ahmed Shah Abdali will take). So we have to live with the government’s depredations, such as the recent decision to double fees at the IITs.

And after this, if your child makes it, you now have the honour of paying another student’s fee. Suddenly, that Rs 4 lakh you would have saved and spent on your own child is taken away as your duty towards the downtrodden.

Where does this damned duty end? Tax, cess, PF, and every day more arm-twisting. Do we go to work every morning to earn for our own little families or to pay the bills of India’s great unwashed? Do we earn so that this party or that can rob us to buy votes? Why is the middle class Bharat Mata’s only Shravan Kumar? What about the big fish swimming in the Panama canal? What about the kingfisher that flew away? What about the Rs 60,000 crore of slush money that’s gushed into the system in this election season?

There’s money enough everywhere. So much money that Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal is proudly brokering land acquisition for farmers at Rs 3 crore per acre. It’s public money going to the farmers now, and later, the end users—we—will bear the costs. Kejriwal will walk away with the votes, of course. And so will the others.

And the middle class will still stand and keep watching helplessly like a tapped rubber tree.

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