ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Making Sense of Place in Rajarhat New Town

The West Bengal government's plan to develop the Rajarhat new township on the periphery of Kolkata in the mid-1990s unwittingly produced an urban landscape that contradicts the master plan. The new town is fragmented into a formal network of roads and gated residential high-rise complexes on the one hand, and dense urban villages with traditional housing layouts on the other. Urban villages and gated communities represent a continuum of new urban living which is marked by a constant need to make sense of the changed reality through varied strategies of place-making. These are in response to the multiple ways in which inhabitants of these very distinct settlement types have been unsettled by urbanisation. The particular emphasis of this paper is on the lived life of inhabitants--examining routine activities that go into the material and social construction of place as well as how place influences social interactions, livelihoods and aspirations.

The Politics of Urban Mega-projects in India

Mega infrastructure projects such as industrial parks and special economic zones are increasingly seen as a means to jump-start urban economies in India. This paper contributes to understanding the politics of urban mega-projects by examining the quality of local economic linkages of an information technology park, located in what is popularly referred to as the "IT corridor" in Chennai. Based on a survey of employees in software firms and support services for IT parks along the corridor, the paper maps patterns of employment creation, new consumption and mobility patterns of those employed in the IT parks and implications for the quality of urban development.

Greenfield Development as Tabula Rasa

Greenfield urban development can be seen as an enduring idiom of politics in India, with state initiative from precolonial times to the present day responsible for establishing iconic capital cities such as Jaipur, Kolkata, or Chandigarh. However, a renewed interest in building new cities, variously labelled "smart," "green" or "integrated," is now accompanied by an increasing tendency to instrumentalise the urban in pursuit of economic growth and a competitive drive to attract global financial flows. Situated at the intersection of several recent literatures from speculative urbanism to theorisations of rescaling and bypass, the papers in this special issue foreground the struggles over land that animate debates about these greenfield sites while looking beyond these concerns to question the urban futures they presage. Synthesising the insights from these papers, this essay flags critical issues for the politics of urban development and sketches pathways for future research.

Reading into the Politics of Land

The Sriperumbudur-Oragadam region on the south-western periphery of Chennai metropolis is projected as a growth centre and favoured destination for real estate investment. The Tamil Nadu government's intervention to develop the region into a global manufacturing hub accelerated the transformation of agricultural land for urban real estate. The paper examines the micropolitics of land transformation with a specific focus on the role of private developers. It discusses three findings from qualitative research conducted in 13 villages in the region. First, developers are not a unified category. Second, in a nuanced reading of the material politics of land, it suggests that the actors' embeddedness in local political relations influences their role. Third, it exposes the complex responses of landowners to land acquisition and the market process. Through a comprehensive analysis of the practices of different categories of developers and landowners it adds to the speculative urbanism theory. Finally, it argues for a grounded reading of the transformation and the role of various actors in the process.

Making of Amaravati

This paper examines Amaravati, the proposed greenfield capital of the bifurcated Andhra Pradesh state, against the backdrop of the rise of urban mega-projects across Asia, and the tendencies towards land speculation they have unleashed in Indian cities. It offers a critique of the land pooling mechanisms as they have played out on the ground in the affected villages. It argues that voluntary land pooling on such a large scale has been made possible through a coordinated use of coercive tactics and legal measures, including the land ordinance of the Government of India, which was re-promulgated three times and provided a credible fallback in the AP government's dealings with farmers. Land pooling also facilitated a regime of co-option with absentee landowners aligning, on caste lines, with the ruling party.


A growing rentier economy is driving urbanisation infrastructure projects in India without distributive linkages with industrialisation. This rentier economy brings within its purview various combinations of policy such as speculative land markets, real estate and other urban infrastructure investments by global and domestic investors, private consultants and developers, interests within the state at various levels, and landowners willing and able to benefit from rentiering. It hinges crucially on ownership of land, and hence on deeply unequal geographies of rent. There is a need to distinguish rent-driven urbanisation infrastructure projects from industrialisation and concomitant job-creation. The peasantry emerges as absolute surplus population irrelevant to this geography of rent, except as an obstacle to growth.

Scaling Up, Scaling Down

Focusing on the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor, an attempt is made here to understand how central and regional governments are rescaling and restructuring power and governmental authority in terms of the governance and planning arrangements of mega-projects. Mega-projects are emerging as spaces of exception in economic as well as governance terms with far greater involvement of private actors, and constant negotiation of the central and state governments.

Public Social Rental Housing in India

While it is recognised that diversity in housing tenure options is a key enabler for low-income families to enter and engage with the urban economy, public housing providers and policymakers claim there are several impediments to the provision of subsidised rental housing. What is the nature of these challenges? What will it take to trigger and sustain a rental housing market in Indian cities that is both public and social? Through an analysis of current public policy recommendations and relevant cases of public provision of rental housing, this paper unbundles these challenges, focusing on the management of social rental housing, tax and governance issues, and lastly, fiscal challenges and new opportunities in rental housing.

The New 'Love' Story of the Taj Mahal

Home to a legacy from history, Agra boasts of a number of historical monuments. This paper focuses on the urban planning implications and socio-spatial consequences of heritage tourism in Agra. Tim Edensor's categorisation of tourist space as "enclavic" or "heterogeneous," Aihwa Ong's zones of exception and the concept of "elite capture" provide the key conceptual frames that inform the study. The paper argues that global heritage tourism has reconfigured everyday life and the spatial geography of Agra, often deepening urban inequalities. The most affected by these new developments are the poor communities living in and around the Taj Mahal for centuries, who find themselves alienated as their world is taken over by the juggernaut of heritage tourism.

Politics, Information Technology and Informal Infrastructures in Urban Governance

Information technology is taking on an increasingly important role in Indian urban governance, both in high-level policy announcements and localised innovations. However, the material and political landscape generated by widespread informal arrangements in urban governance is a challenging environment for these kind of reforms. Without adequately conceptualising and accounting for this, "smart" technological improvements will be limited at best. This article illustrates such a necessity by discussing urban water supply in two urban local bodies in Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad.

Reflecting on the Share Economy and Urbanising Capital

Three vectors together constitute the new urban phenomenon, the so-called, ideologically labelled, "share economy," which is actually a "sharing the scraps economy." The three vectors are: (i) the hybrid subsumption structure of the labour process, (ii) the primitive accumulation structure of recommoditisation, and (iii) the extension of the workday. These are being sold to a new generation of youth as a kind of a technologically-inspired new space that they need to occupy. But functionally, these three vectors are at the service of capital.

Urban Voting and Party Choices in Delhi

In most parts of the world there is a direct relation between economic and social well-being and political participation. India, though, is among the exceptions to this tendency. The poor in India vote more than the rich. This paper, using the case of Delhi, shows that neighbourhoods have a significant influence in voting patterns. The rich in poor neighbourhoods vote more than the rich in affluent neighbourhoods and the poor in rich neighbourhoods vote less than the poor in underprivileged neighbourhoods. This paper uses property tax and property categories to arrive at Delhi's wealth parameters and then tries to match them with voting patterns.


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