India: New Middle Class, New Priorities

India: New Middle Class, New Priorities

Persis Khambatta

Two speakers addressed issues faced by the emerging middle class in India as well as the influence of the media in Asia on Tuesday at UCF. The presentation, “One Billion Rising: The New Face of South Asia,” featured presentations by India studies expert Persis Khambatta and NPR newscaster Jamie McIntyre. The Global Perspectives Office, in partnership with The India Center at UCF, hosted the event, which drew about 100 people.

Khambatta, who studies U.S.-India policy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, focused on the four internal tensions that India has been facing with its emerging middle class. These include the citizens versus the state, populous politics versus populous economics, centralization versus federalization and the youth bulge. Furthermore, she emphasized the frailty of the growing middle class and expressed her concern over the lack of aid and attention the government pays to this emerging group. According to Khambatta, it is imperative that the government work to stabilize this group.

When asked about the role social media plays in Indian politics, Khambatta emphasized the importance politicians place on using sites such as Facebook and Twitter. According to her, enormous numbers of voters, especially young ones, follow politicians in numbers considered unimaginable for Western politicians.

Next, McIntyre spoke of his travels to Sri Lanka, where he taught young journalists about using smartphones to enrich their reporting. There, he encouraged them to use these new skills to create stories and adapt to the digital age. He emphasized that shooting video or recording audio with something as accessible as a cell phone is a less intimidating way of creating news stories. Moreover, he mentioned that it is a safer method of journalism that can keep journalists out of harm by being able to delete data after safely storing it online, ensuring they will have no problems if searched by corrupt authorities.

One audience member asked about the potential impact of these new digitally capable journalists in South Asia. McIntyre responded that with new technology, videos are going viral, becoming accessible and are now a “potentially very powerful” way of spreading awareness.

In addition to the Global Perspectives Office, partners and sponsors included The India Center at UCF, UCF Diplomacy Studies Program, UCF Middle Eastern Studies Program, UCF Global Peace and Security Studies Program, The India Group, Orlando Area Committee on Foreign Relations, Chastang Charitable Foundation, CliftonLarsonAllen, UCF Burnett Honors College, UCF Political Science Department, UCF LIFE, Indian American Chamber of Commerce and the Global Connections Foundation.