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Boom splits India's middle class

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From their sixth-floor apartment, in this thoroughly modern suburb of New Delhi, Gopal and Pranamita Sarma can see a bright future for themselves in India.

Sure, they see the grinding poverty and government corruption. They see the continued power of thuggish politicians and the relative weakness of the middle class.

But behind, they say, there is something bigger: a change in attitude.

The economy is growing at a rate paralleled only by China. Indian companies have become more sophisticated at making products that the world wants. And the Indian middle class has become more sophisticated as well, more willing to try new things and take new risks.

From their perspective, India is shining, and all the conditions are present to turn this once sleepy third-world country into an economic juggernaut.

"The last six months are the first time I have felt vindicated in not leaving India," says Mr. Sarma, an economist and managing director for a consulting firm in New Delhi.

"I had an opportunity to go to the US before graduate school, and I decided against it. All my family told me I was an idiot. But now, I feel this is a great place to be, and it's only going to get better and better."

For American taxpayers who see every job created in India as a job lost for them, this may not be welcome news. Gone are the days when India was a sinkhole for American aid dollars; now it is a colossus ready to consume the world. In truth, India's booming economy is still in its infancy, and not nearly as widespread or as popular as the statistics may indicate.

Here, many middle class and poor Indians complain that the boom has benefited a fortunate few and left ordinary Indians bearing the loss of 1.3 million jobs cut from the government bureaucracy over the past decade. Some of these cuts were made to satisfy international lenders and trade treaties.


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