The people of the Annawadi area of Mumbai grow up in drastic poverty. They have a thorough understanding of the Indian social system; most people, the author claims, also have faith in innate and learned skills that can help them cope and advance.
One widespread social feature is clientelism, in which people give jobs and provide services to only those with whom they have personal connections. In this primarily Hindu area, the old established caste patterns largely remain in place. This makes it difficult to get beyond the bottom rung of the advancement ladder.
Closely related is corruption, in which business and civic leaders take bribes for facilitating development. Particular neighborhoods, service providers, and even labor unions will be contracted only if they pay. The poor, even if they manage to start a business, cannot compete.
Another factor is neglect and lack of social programs. Increased industrialization brings more pollution and related waste. The state devotes few resources to mitigating these effects, so poor neighborhoods are left without potable water or sewer systems.
A desire for education is also thwarted by the low number and quality of public schools and the expense of, and competition to enter, private schools. For tech-heavy jobs in globalized concerns, people without education are basically shut out.
The environmental hazards in their living conditions also render the poor and marginalized more vulnerable to illness. This in turn adds to high infant mortality and neonatal illness, malnutrition, persistence of communicable diseases, and lower life expectancy. Low government investment in health and poor oversight over multinational companies' harmful practices, such as water pollution and toxic waste dumping, disproportionately harm the poorest of the poor.