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Frontier Urbanism

In her essay “Is There an Indian Urbanism?” historian Janaki Nair (2013: 42) asks, Is India imprisoned in the older sociological categories that were laid out by Max Weber in his study of the medieval Western city, or can one theoretically account for the apparent regeneration of some historical...

Urban Transformations in Khora Village, NCR

The theoretical concepts “urban informality,” “periphery,” and “everyday state,” primarily emerging from the “new geographies” of the Global South, are used to make sense of the complicated state–society interactions leading to the transformation of land at the rural–urban interface of the postcolonial metropolitan capital of Delhi. The history of land development in a village called Khora is examined, which, located at the intersection of Delhi, Noida and Ghaziabad, has transformed from a sparsely populated village in 1971 to one of the densest “unauthorised colonies” in Asia in 2011. The “state” interacts in myriad ways ranging from contest to collusion with private actors, giving rise to the “fractal” urban form of Noida.

Seeing Mumbai through Its Hinterland

The “money in the city, votes in the countryside” dynamic meant that in the past, agrarian propertied classes wielded enough power to draw capital and resources from cities into the rural hinterland. However, as cities cease to be mere sites of extraction, agrarian elites have sought new terms of inclusion in contemporary India’s market-oriented urban growth, most visible in the endeavour of the political class to facilitate the entry of the “sugar constituency” into Mumbai’s real estate markets.

Receding Rurality, Booming Periphery

This paper advances new perspectives on peripheral urbanisation in South Asia by drawing attention to Karachi’s rural land transformations. It considers the shift from the metropolis to the agrarian–urban frontier as a process that signals the production of a new value regime centred on the devalorisation of a rural economy and its transformation into urban real estate, as well as the changing priorities and preferences of the state. It proposes that Karachi’s agrarian–urban transformations can be understood as value struggles that pivot on three interconnected processes: strategies of enclosure for the production of private property; accumulation by dispossession that separates rural populations from the means of subsistence through direct extra-economic force such as the state; and “value grabbing” or the appropriation and distribution of (surplus) value through rent between diverse state and private actors. Given that this is a deeply political process, the state’s role remains salient in terms of its alliances with varied groups—real estate developers, politicians, brokers, waderas —to make land available for capital.

Fragmentary Planning and Spaces of Opportunity in Peri-urban Mumbai

Rapid de-agrarianisation and transformation of the rural has been unleashed by “fragmentary” urban planning processes in peri-urban Mumbai. An overview of the outcomes on the ground seen in relation to the urban planning processes is presented through a case study of villages around Panvel city, the last station on one of Mumbai’s suburban railway lines. This paper specifically engages with spatial planning in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region and foregrounds the results of fragmentary planning on the ground. It highlights the schism that exists between sovereign planning by administrative or political leadership and technical planning by planners through spatial plans, which renders the spatial expertise of technical planning almost irrelevant to the transformation underway. Additionally, the urban bias of technical planning ensures that the rural either gets overlooked or is transformed as the future urban.

People Out of Place

An examination of the circumstances in which a set of pavement dwellers in Mumbai came to the city, allows one to link their imperiled urban material and political circumstances to the green revolution and the changes it wrought both in the relations of social reproduction and the form of electoral politics. Methodologically, their life stories also suggest that the space of rural poverty in India cannot be coterminous with the village border. Thus, the hinterland is not a physical location but a relational one, a configuration of historical and spatial relations that could as easily be found outside a city’s limits, as it can be found inside a city.

Dalal Middlemen and Peri-urbanisation in Nepal

In the rapid urbanisation of Kathmandu Valley’s periphery, the practices and logics of dalal middlemen are fundamental to the uneven transformation of land from agricultural to residential uses. Far more than just mediating urban change for personal profit, this ethnographic portrait of dalals illustrates their active role in producing an emerging peripheral locality through engagement with local demands, a detached state, and the growing interest of private capital.

JNNURM as a Window on Urban Governance

Owing to its scope, the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission is an excellent window for understanding the evolution of urban governance in India, despite its closing in 2014. The JNNURM’s aspirations were belied by its realities of progressive centralisation, degraded local capacities, commercially-oriented infrastructure development, and intercity and intra-city inequalities. We identify and discuss three signatures that shaped its conceptualisation, operationalisation, and outcomes: flexible networks of policy actors and advisors; mobile policy ideas, best practices, and norms; and the pervasive role of consultancies. These signatures appear to endure, to varying degrees, in new urban programmes, with potentially far-reaching ramifications for urban governance.

Living in a Category

The 2011 Census revealed that the most dynamic sector of urban growth in India is taking shape within rural institutions, given the unprecedented growth of “census towns.” The long-term difficulty in India of finding an appropriate term and mode of governance for rural areas that are also urban, is not simply a nomenclatural conundrum. A brief foray into the travails of local self-government in colonial Punjab demonstrates important continuities with urban processes today, providing essential insights to securing more humane urban policies in contexts like the census town.

Urban Jungles

In an exploration of the processes through which urban India acquires or loses green spaces, this article examines how parks and urban publics are mutually constituted in Delhi. Social change has led to a re-imagination of cultural meanings and modes of ecological management. Ecological change, in turn, has created new social relations around the use and protection of nature. Analysing Mangarbani, a sacred grove on the edge of the metropolis, and the Delhi Ridge, a “wilderness” domesticated for recreational use, the author argues that the creation and preservation of certain forms of urban nature relate to the shifting sensibilities of elites, especially the section that acts as a self-appointed vanguard of environmental causes. However, other users of public green areas challenge the far-reaching effects of this “bourgeois environmentalism.” The contested meanings and practices around urban natures create new alliances and understandings that may promote ecology and justice.

Migration, Caste and Marginalised Sections

A spatial overview on availability of urban basic services reveals disparities across urban India. Although various levels of government, including the parastatals, have strived to achieve sufficiency in provisioning of urban basic services, the coverage is far from satisfactory. The growing urban population creates deficiencies on the limited urban infrastructure. The condition is even more precarious for the new migrants who are poor and belong to socially marginalised groups. Using secondary data from the census and National Sample Survey Office, the distribution of basic amenities, including housing across states and size classes of urban centres, and the disparity in their distribution disaggregated by new migrants, marginalised groups and poverty levels are analysed.

Insights on Demonetisation from Rural Tamil Nadu

Drawing on survey data from rural Tamil Nadu, the effects of demonetisation are documented. Serious concerns arise with regard to the achievement of its stated goals. The rural economy was adversely affected in terms of employment, daily financial practices, and social network use for over three months. People came to rely more strongly on their networks to sustain their economic and social activities. Demonetisation has probably further marginalised those without support networks. In a context such as India, where state social protection is weak and governmental schemes are notoriously subject to patronage and clientelistic networks, dense networks of supportive relatives, friends and patrons remain key for safeguarding daily life. With cashless policies gaining currency in various parts of the world, we believe our findings have major implications, seriously questioning their merit, especially among the most marginalised segments of the population.


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