Indian Metros: A Paradox Between Extreme Luxury and Poverty

High rise residential complexes, swanky malls, hip-hop café’s, glistening glass structures, they all paint a pretty picture of a city treading the path of growth. Just step out of these, take a turn around the road and the contrast leaves you tongue-tied. It is most likely that you’ll sight garbage heaps circling the filth-strewn refuge of the lesser children of god, who have been cornered in growing metropolitan towns of India.

These metropolis flash the most ostentatious display of wealth, clout and glitz but sulking somewhere in the dark is the ugly face of poverty, helplessness and frustration.

It’s simply intriguing to have two gravely opposite realities co-exist in the same space and time. Indian metropolitans besides celebrating luxury of life exemplified in gala wedding ceremonies, lavish dinners, cocktails and bashes for almost any thing or everything, latest cars, high tech gadgets, and obsession for everything branded, also cradle the vulnerability of a wage labourer for whom earning a living to keep his heart and soul together is an uphill task, considering the innumerable diseases and thousands of unspoken tortures that come in his way.

In Mumbai, the haven of mighty and beautiful, people can’t get enough of speed and running over those sleeping on footpaths. In one end of the city sparkling, crystal clear water is found in abundance and at the other people manage with thick black water running through the sewage lines. In fact Mumbai houses Asia’s largest slum “Dharavi”. What a hideous contrast!

Though, Delhi, Chennai, Banglore, Mumbai and Hyderabad have certainly scripted a growth story for Indian economy, but their contribution in development remains discounted.

How is growth different from development? Development is a broader concept encompassing social, mental, physical well-being where as growth focuses only on the economic component. 39-43% of India’s slum population is distributed between Calcutta, Mumbai, Delhi, and Chennai. Available data indicate that levels of urban poverty in India are increasing. Urban economies, urbanization, and urban environments influence the health status of the urban poor. The glaring gap between the rich and the poor can be witnessed in access to clean drinking water, decent housing, good education, proper health care and reliable power supply. The poor have been trapped into ‘inequality trap’ in addition to being in the ‘poverty trap.’

This paradox is a microscopic picture of a larger phenomenon, economic disparity spread across the globe. With economic planners in different parts of the world waking up to the problem, here’s hoping for a twist in the tale.