It is a miracle Muniammah Appalanaidu, 48, and her four teenage children get by on the M$25 (HK$51) a day she earns washing dishes at a Chinese seafood restaurant in the upmarket suburb of Bangsar. Like many Indians, the family lives in a rented plywood shack in Kampung Lindungan, a crime-ridden squatter colony 10km south of the city. The children attend school intermittently and one son, 14, has spent time in the police lock-up after a gang fight. A teenage daughter owns an expensive mobile phone and comes home late but Muniammah does not know what her job entails. 'My husband tried very hard at several jobs but gave up ... he became an alcoholic,' Muniammah said. 'We don't know where he is ... I don't know how long I can hold things together.' It is ironic that poverty and despair exist in a modern multiracial society where abundance is the norm for the wealthy few and where more than 2 million foreign workers have found work. The majority of Malaysia's 1.6 million Indians survive on low wages as unskilled workers, living in crowded squatter colonies or substandard, low-cost flats. Rapid economic development in the past two decades has improved the lives of millions, including educated Indians. But the growth also displaced thousands of Indians living on plantations. Like Muniammah, most Indians were made jobless and homeless when the rubber and oil palm plantations where they worked and lived were redeveloped into playgrounds for the new rich - zoos, water parks, luxury apartments and golf courses. 'They lost everything, their jobs, social security, their homes and even their chickens and vegetable gardens,' Nasir Othman, who heads a national coalition of non-governmental organisations helping displaced people such as Muniammah. 'The uprooted and the homeless became a new underclass, the urban Indian poor. The government calls them squatters but we call them urban pioneers.' A government survey from last year found 79.7 per cent of all Indians lived in urban centres, with many living below the poverty line because they had not received a proper education and were unskilled. Several studies blame poverty and urban squalor for fuelling the upsurge in social ills - from drug addiction to violent crime to suicides - among the Indian poor. Police statistics show Indians are either victims or perpetrators in 40 per cent of serious crime incidents. 'Many among the Indian poor are frustrated, angry and aggressive ... they are deeply marginalised and feel completely alienated,' said Denison Jayasooria, head of the Strategic Social Foundation.