Photo Essays

India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

A literal wall hides the poor from those going to the mall next door.

Vishal Arora
By Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora for
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

While India’s economy has been growing rapidly since liberalization was initiated in 1991, the inequality between the richest and the poorest has also risen, according to the India Exclusion Report 2016 by the Centre for Equity Studies.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

Development has come physically close to the poor but remains out of their reach.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

While most residents can see the mall from their windows, we wondered how many of them, if at all, could afford a meal inside the shopping center.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

There is no dearth of elite food chains in India, but more than 38 percent of children in India are stunted, whereas 29 percent of them are underweight, according to the Global Hunger Index 2016.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

The World Bank noted in a report last year that India had the largest number of people living below international poverty line, $1.90 a day, with 30 percent of its population under this poverty measure.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

While India has some of the world’s richest people, the number of poor in India is more than 2.5 times as many as the 86 million in Nigeria, which has the second-largest population of the poor worldwide, according to the World Bank.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

According to the Census of India, six million children aged 6 to 13 have never been to school.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

The World Health Organization suggests at least doctor one for every 1,000 patients, but India has about one doctor for every 1,700 patients. Yet the public spending has increased only marginally — from 1.1 percent of GDP in 1995 to 1.4 percent in 2014.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

Will the situation improve in the near future? In the Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index 2017, India’s commitment to reducing inequality was ranked 132 out of 152 countries.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora
India’s Biggest Shopping Mall Reflects Rich-Poor Divide

India needs qualitative economic development, which is inclusive, and not mere quantitative growth, which favors mostly the rich and middle-income groups.

Credit: Rukhsar Ansari and Vishal Arora

The Mall of India near Delhi attracts the eyes of the passer-by, but as you go past the swanky structure, the scene suddenly changes to a cluster of tiny, dirty houses, and huts. This unpleasant confrontation can challenge your view of economic development in the world’s largest functioning democracy.

One of India’s biggest and largest malls standing right next to a poor locality could be mistaken as India’s diversity, but a tall wall has been erected to prevent the mall’s visitors from seeing the settlement, which points instead to a division of the rich from the poor.

As part of a group of photography enthusiasts, called the Delhi Photo Expedition, we decided to juxtapose the two sides of India’s economic reality in our frames. Although we found more smiles and warmth on the sadder side of the wall, we couldn’t help notice the brutal exclusion of the poor from the so-called development that India often boasts of.