ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Protest, Politics, and the Middle Class in Varanasi

Looking at public protests in Varanasi, this paper focuses on associations representing four middle-class occupational groups - traders, lawyers, teachers, and doctors. It finds that they perceive the state to be unresponsive to formal, contained means of making demands, and see disruptive action as the quickest means to force it to deliver on its promise of good governance. The contentiousness is often highly politicised - bound up with political ambitions and rivalries, electoral expectations, and patronage relationships with political figures. There is also a strong element of assumed class privilege in the outrage that they bring to the street.

Revisiting the 74th Constitutional Amendment for Better Metropolitan Governance

Indian policymakers have been slow in responding to changing metropolitan forms and have largely visualised urbanisation as city expansion. As a result, metropolitan regions, which are complex entities with multiple municipal and non-municipal institutional arrangements, have become mere creatures of state governments with neither the necessary strategic flexibility nor political legitimacy. In part, this is because the 74th constitutional amendment of 1993 has failed to visualise the dynamics of large complex urban formations. This paper suggests both a need to confront this blind spot in the 74th constitutional amendment for long-term durable solutions and to creatively work through available legislative and institutional arrangements in the short to medium term.

Inflections in Agricultural Evolution

This paper examines the emergence of specific commodity complexes and transactional forms in eight interior districts in Tamil Nadu focusing on gherkins, marigold, broiler, cotton and papaya. Their growing importance is a response to the structural changes in the larger economy and the contextual constraints on agriculture in the region. It posits that this phenomenon represents an inflection in the trajectory of agricultural growth in the region because of three distinct features. First, the new commodity complexes have strong links to agribusinesses and global markets. Second, downstream players exert an unprecedented influence and control over production practices. Third, the need for control over quality demands particular transactional forms such as contract farming. The paper argues that despite some economic gain, challenges of a different kind emerge and the normative implications of these changes are as yet unclear.

New Markets for Smallholders in India

The gradual withdrawal of the state from agricultural markets and the emphasis on the role of the private sector has meant the entry of corporate and multinational agencies through the opening up of procurement, wholesale trade and retailing. This paper examines the new corporate interface with primary producers in a small farmer-dominated economy. It contextualises the issue from the perspective of smallholders. It examines contract farming arrangements to show the exclusion of small producers from the retail chain; the performance of modern (supermarket) food retail chains in India and their spread and penetration into, or interface with, farmers; policy and regulatory issues; and some of the mechanisms and institutional innovations for more inclusive agricultural marketing systems.

Development Policies and Agricultural Markets

Agricultural marketing in India suffers from inefficiency, a disconnect between the prices received by producers and the prices paid by consumers, fragmented marketing channels, poor infrastructure and policy distortions. Urgent reforms are needed to address these inadequacies and check the excesses of middlemen. While encouraging new models that improve the bargaining power of producers and scaling up successful experiments, producers' companies and cooperative marketing societies could be promoted to provide alternative avenues for sale of produce. Meanwhile, price policy has to be reoriented to bring it in tune with the emerging demand and supply of various crops. Though the private sector is vital to improving efficiency, the public sector is equally essential to serve the larger social goal of maintaining price stability through market operations.

Auctions in Grain Markets and Farmer Welfare

Modifications to the Agriculture Produce Market Committee Acts have removed barriers to private participation and allowed trade outside regulated markets in the hope that it will help farmers and improve market infrastructure. But a key feature of regulated markets - the use of auctions to sell produce - has attracted relatively little attention. This paper argues that the auction mechanism is central to protecting farmers' interests in a given market, even in the presence of collusion among some large buyers. More generally, it is a transparent mechanism of price discovery and sets a benchmark with which any new market set up by a private player has to compete, thus mitigating any adverse impact on prices received by farmers.

States of Wheat

Madhya Pradesh has emerged as one of the leading wheat procurement states in the country in the last five years, reflecting remarkable changes in the regional distribution and dynamics of the country's grain procurement landscape. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Harda Mandi, this paper describes the new systems and processes that have been implemented in the market yard and examines their effects on the mandi and key participants - farmers, traders, labourers, functionaries, and multiple state agencies. By focusing on the logistics and micropractices of procurement, it grasps the interconnections between critical elements of market processes and their impact on market participation and outcomes.

Urban Poverty in India

What kinds of subjects-in-the-making are the urban poor? The authors in this issue of the Review of Urban Affairs offer neither conclusive arguments nor radically new paradigms. They, however, nudge us to rethink poverty, not as an objective condition that can be addressed through policymaking at a distance or by targeted development schemes, but as constituted through contentious engagements of disadvantaged individuals and communities with neo-liberal policy discourses and agendas.

Understanding Poverty and Inequality in Urban India since Reforms

Having grown considerably in the past two decades, Indian cities have become highly unequal spaces - economically, spatially, socially and culturally. Both quantitative approaches and qualitative methods have been used to study and measure the rising levels of inequality and the extent of poverty of the cities. While both have their problems, this paper claims that notwithstanding their respective limitations, these two approaches have captured different dimensions of the complex Indian urban process, even if they have rarely made an effort to speak to each other. The authors offer their own perspective on how these approaches can learn from each other and move forward.

The Spatial Reproduction of Urban Poverty

How do mass slum resettlement programmes in expanding megacities contribute to the reproduction of urban poverty? Chennai's premier resettlement colony, Kannagi Nagar, housing slum-dwellers evicted from the city since 2000 has integrated itself into the industrial, commercial and software economies of the information technology corridor on unfavourable terms, swelling the supply of unskilled casual workers for local firms. This article highlights, from the vantage point of workers in the resettlement colony, how the restructuring processes of large formal sector companies within the "new economy" exploit conditions created by the state's slum clearance policies, to enhance the precariousness of work for residents of resettlement sites. It highlights issues of quality of work for casual workers in the formal sector and their role in the production, persistence and reproduction of working poverty. It thereby illustrates how the restructuring of urban space by new imperatives of urban capital, through the peripheralisation of both industrial establishments and working classes, creates new socio-spatial configurations of work and poverty.

On the Sabarmati Riverfront

The web version of this article corrects a few errors that appeared in the print edition. The official narrative presents Ahmedabad as a pioneer in urban transformation in India. This paper questions whether these claims engage with the experiences of the urban poor in Ahmedabad by examining processes around the Sabarmati Riverfront Development Project. Highlighted here are the roles played by the architectural consultancy, city administrators and political managers, as well as community groups, civil society and academic institutions. The efficiency of the administration showed an active anti-poor stance in the court proceedings and in the violence of actual evictions and post-eviction suffering. The evidence presented here also shows how "world-class" urban planning has facilitated yet another blatant instance of "accumulation by dispossession" via the flow of the Sabarmati.

New Policy Paradigms and Actual Practices in Slum Housing

Recent reform programmes for achieving "slum-free" cities, like the Basic Services for the Urban Poor, signal a new integrated approach to slum redevelopment that combines housing, infrastructure and land titling. The new policy paradigm speaks the language of inclusiveness and efficiency, but its outcome has been far from ideal. This study examines two housing projects in Bengaluru to reveal how core elements of the new programme drive inconsistencies, even distortions, on the ground, impinging on the urban local body's ability to deliver on the ambitious aim of providing affordable housing in sizeable numbers. It argues that the new approach to housing projects is overlaid on the conventional "public housing built by contractors chosen by tender" framework and this poses fresh challenges to already beleaguered local bodies.

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