The socio-economic polarization of Delhi

Delhi can be defined as many things, but heterogeneous is not one of them. It is a city whose rapidly rising mall culture contrasts heavily with it’s stark realities at the ground level. A major garbage dump can easily exist outside the long stretch of big wig structures like Select city walk and Max Hospital. A 5 star hotel can co-exist with a slum area. A pedestrian could wait for an auto to stop while ten BMWs zoom past him.

In a nutshell, Delhi is a city that essentially has two faces – The one that is rich, glamorous and swanky and the one that is poor, inadequate and unorganized. These two faces define the way things are run in this city. They dictate the terms that will eventually be levied on everyone. Unfortunately the ones who suffer the most in this tussle between the extremely rich and the extremely poor are the middle class people. They slog away for years in 9-6 jobs, pay their bills and taxes, pay for their children’s education, invest in policies, take loans and dream of living a comfortable and stress free life one day. That ‘one day’ however, never really arrives owing to the fact that the middle class is one sector that no one gives a shit about.

The extremely rich people are the ones dwelling in places like Sainik Farms, Paschim Vihar, Panchsheel, Vasant Kunj, GK so on and so forth. They have enough money to rent Honey Singh for an hour to sing at their daughter’s wedding, enough money to arrange a luncheon with a high ranking government official, enough money to buy their children seats in coveted institutions and enough money to drain down the pipe and still be left with enough to feed the entire city of Ramnagar. They have strong connections with all the right people. They can exert influence in places where a common man can only dream of getting past the peon. Say a tender floated by MCD or PWD, open to all on paper, offers an opportunity to relatively smaller units as well. But in reality, someone sitting in a chair worth 1 lac just needs to send a bottle of whisky, a complimentary mobile phone and a few sugar coated promises to nab the tender and shove everyone else out of the way even before someone can think of bidding. The reason why the line ‘Tu jaanta nahi mera baap kaun hai’ is so famously abused in Delhi is because it actually is true. The only way one can get out of tight spots is if he/she has the right connections. A rich dude from a rich family can break traffic laws, drive under influence and eve tease openly without the fear of bearing any consequences. Why? Because ‘consequences’ are not for someone whose dad has coffee with the Commissioner ever week.

On the flip side are the poor people who constitute the daily wage workers, domestic help, autorickshaw wallahs etc. Their one and only funda is – ‘Strength in numbers’. They are united by their status and their ambition to get as many free benefits as possible. They use their unity to exert influence in workplaces to get their way, and their status as a sympathy card to get out of situations. Say you dismiss a worker in an Industrial area like Okhla without further pay, the next thing you know, about 50 other workers are standing right outside your office demanding why this happened and threatening you with everything from labour court notices to local gunda connections. Their threats may be real or empty, but strong enough to get the job done. A local lady who works as a cook only needs to tear her dupatta and cry rape before an official case is registered against you. All for what? A few extra bucks.

Their unity is also a great vote bank for local MLAs who rely on them for local help. They do petty jobs for them in return for solidarity and support. This is why you could be running a smart IT business and still fall prey to their tricks.

What’s being sandwiched in all this is the middle class, who simply cannot see beyond their monthly stressors like roti, kapda, makaan. They’re the ones who get ripped off by autowallahs and sidelined by Audi owners. They’re the ones who can stroll around in Select Citywalk and yet manage to buy nothing. They’re the ones who are qualified enough to get a good seat in a good institution but get squashed either by reservation or by the wealthy son of a wealthy father. There is no politician who finds the middle class issues strong enough to create a mudda, no godfather who is willing to stand up for the never ending struggle of the 9-6 worker, no NGO that is invested in supporting the paper thin lives of the middle class man, rearing to fall apart at the slightest touch.

In conclusion? If you want to lead a good life in Delhi, you must either be very rich or very poor. If you’re one of the middle class, then you’re pretty much doomed to lead a life of misery throughout.

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