Analysis: COVID-19 Pushes India’s Middle Class Toward Poverty
The pandemic sent 32 million people in India from the middle class last year. Now a second wave is threatening the dreams of millions more looking for a better life.
Ashish Anand had dreams of becoming a fashion designer. A former flight attendant, he borrowed from relatives and poured his $5,000 life savings into opening a clothing shop on the outskirts of Delhi selling custom-designed suits, shirts and pants.
The shop, called the Right Fit, opened in February 2020, just weeks before the coronavirus struck India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi abruptly enacted one of the world’s toughest nationwide lockdowns to stop it. Unable to pay the rent, Mr. Anand closed the Right Fit two months later.
Now Mr. Anand, his wife and his two children are among millions of people in India in danger of sliding out of the middle class and into poverty. They depend on handouts from his aging in-laws. Khichdi, or watery lentils cooked with rice, has replaced eggs and chicken at the dinner table. Sometimes, he said, the children go to bed hungry.
“I have nothing left in my pocket,” said Mr. Anand, 38. “How can I not give food to my children?”
Now a second wave of Covid-19 has struck India, and the middle class dreams of tens of millions of people face even greater peril. Already, about 32 million people in India were driven into poverty by the pandemic last year, according to the Pew Research Center, accounting for a majority of the 54 million who slipped out of the middle class worldwide.
Photo courtesy of Baluda.