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

A+| A| A-

Neoliberalising the 'Urban': New Geographies of Power and Injustice in Indian Cities

An adequate understanding of the contemporary neoliberal urban process requires a grasp of its politico-economic ideological framework, multi-scalar institutional forms, diverse socio-political links and multiple contradictions. This paper examines the active engagement of neoliberalism that is not only moulding the concept of "urban", but is simultaneously intensifying unevenness in inter-urban and intra-urban development. It focuses on the National Urban Renewal Mission, the official carrier of neoliberal urbanism, and its various implications. The paper illustrates the process of restructuring in a few cities in different states, most importantly, in Mumbai, the country's budding "international financial centre", with a focus on specific "development" projects.


Neoliberalising the ‘Urban’: New Geographies of Power and Injustice in Indian Cities

Swapna Banerjee-Guha

An adequate understanding of the contemporary neoliberal urban process requires a grasp of its politico-economic ideological framework, multi-scalar institutional forms, diverse socio-political links and multiple contradictions. This paper examines the active engagement of neoliberalism that is not only moulding the concept of “urban”, but is simultaneously intensifying unevenness in inter-urban and intra-urban development. It focuses on the National Urban Renewal Mission, the official carrier of neoliberal urbanism, and its various implications. The paper illustrates the process of restructuring in a few cities in different states, most importantly, in Mumbai, the country’s budding “international financial centre”, with a focus on specific “development” projects.

The discussion on Vision Mumbai and the “golden triangle” is partly based on my paper “Shifting Places and Changing Identities: New Urbanism and Mumbai” presented in the inaugural plenary session of “Creative Destruction and the New Geographies of Empire”, Conference held at the Centre for Place, Culture and Politics, City University of New York, 15-17 April 2004. I thank Prasad Gogate and Sambuddha Guhathakurta for assisting me in making the diagrams.

Swapna Banerjee-Guha ( is with the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

1 Introduction

new urban order has come to rule since post-1970s coinciding with the crises of the Fordist-Keynesian accumulation regime and breakdown of the Bretton Woods system. It was a time when the world capitalist system became increasingly neoliberalised, subsequently taking a dominant form, impacting social and economic spaces of countries across the world, especially those of the Global South and finally their entire developmental system. Having a multifaceted and multi-scalar framework, it was characterised by universal backtracking of the welfare state, dismantling of institutional constraints upon marketisation, increased commodification, shrinking of organised jobs and hyper-exploitation of workers, downgrading of democratic rights earned through long-drawn struggles and a tremendous economic uncertainty. Simultaneously, despite deregulation and privatisation of state-owned and stateprovided services, a new kind of state intervention with a larger entrepreneurial capacity was brought in, to roll forward new forms of governance that ostensibly suited a market-driven globalising economy (Brenner and Theodore 2002a). The pattern, imposed at a range of spatial scales, varied substantially from country to country, depending on their historical process of development, politico-economic structures and standing in the international economy (Banerjee-Guha 2002a). The specificity of the current neoliberal practices largely lies in the discursive and organisational frameworks that arose out of developments of the above nature.

Given the disjuncture between the ideology of neoliberalism and its everyday political practices and societal effects (Mooney and Danson 1997; Keil 2002), neoliberal projects, pursued at d iverse scales, are often found tangled with the contradictions and tensions of everyday life. On the one hand, while its ideology creates a “utopia” of free markets, liberated from all kinds of state interference, in practice it entails a coercive form of state intervention to facilitate market rule (Brenner and Theodore 2002a) over a wider socio-spatial spectrum. At city level, it is characterised by increasing constraints in planning and the political c apacity of elected municipal governments, privatisation of basic services, withdrawal of the state from urban development, escalating support for publi c-private partnerships, especially in infrastructure projects, increasing gentrification to expand space for elitist consumption and a growing exposure to global competition reflecting the power of a disciplinary finance regime and a hegemonic cultural framework. Cities have become crucially i nterrelated to the process of reproduction, reconstitution and

Economic & Political Weekly

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

mutation of neoliberalism as an i deology (Brenner and Theodore 2002a) across the world.

Metropolises located in the Global South deserve special mention in this respect as they show signs of intense conflict due to the imposition of the above framework (Banerjee-Guha 2002a), reflecting contestation between the global and the local. Characterised by the demand of market and its priorities, a belligerent urbanism is found promoted in these countries, advocating multiscalar “creative destruction” at various politico-economic scales. In recent decades, in many such countries, including India, cities have been undergoing drastic transformations in their form and governance to become equipped to function as incubators of neoliberal strategies in the Global South. With rescaling of the “global” and recasting of the “urban” (Smith 2002), they are i ncreasingly emerging as embodiment of the current imperatives of capitalist production achieved through “flexibilisation” and disaggregation (Banerjee-Guha 1997), reflecting a wider restructuring of their respective national and regional economies. Projected as “champions of urbanity” and epitome of a worldwide vision of urban planning, in reality these cities link capitalist political strategies to the contemporary urban imaginations of global capital, contributing largely towards the construction of hegemony (Lefebvre 1991) and dominant culture, characterised by competition, modernity and exploitation, all in a single framework. They produce two conflicting forms, the first being the network of interactions and flows that does not necessarily represent any specific urban unit but a hyper-modern urban form representing contemporary capitalism and the market economy; the second one characterises specific structures/architectures of a gigantic nature that lend a commonness to the conception of the current “urban” (Banerjee-Guha 2002b), irrespective of the economic environment at the macro level. In India, they simultaneously reflect the contradictions of the state institutions that are essentially a crystallisation of uneven development and in total sync with the larger process of neoliberal restructuring of contemporary times (Banerjee-Guha 2008). It partly rests on existing inequalities but largely on the reproduction of newer areas of decline and growth, based on the current forms of economic m omentum and the regulatory framework.

The consolidation of the worldwide regime of “disciplinary neoliberalism” (Gill 1995) at the urban scale has been examined substantially by scholars (Amin 1994; Harvey 1989; Smith 1996; 2002; Mitchell 2001; Brenner and Theodore 2002a) from the North. Few, however, have originated from the South and fewer from south Asia on the specificities of policies, institutional framework and consequences of urban neoliberalism. Works are also extremely scanty on the contemporary city-centred strategies of international financial institutions (IFIs) like World Bank, International Monetary Fund (IMF), Asian Development Bank (ADB), that in recent years, have been systematically redirecting investment from “region” to “urban” in a big way, to promote neoliberalism in these countries, as a part of their ideological and functional sustenance. It is evident in the extraordinarily r enewed metropolitan bias in urban policy of these countries, the predatory nature of growth of large cities and finally, the vigorous pursuit of their economic regeneration in the current time.

Hence, an adequate understanding of the contemporary neoliberal urban process, especially in these countries, not only requires a grasp of its politico-economic ideological framework, but equally importantly, its multi-scalar institutional forms (Brenner and Theodore 2002a; Banerjee-Guha 2002a, 2002b), its diverse socio-political links and multiple contradictions.

In this paper I intend to examine the active engagement of n eoliberalism in the current urban policies in India that is not only moulding the entire concept of “urban”, but simultaneously intensifying unevenness in inter-urban and intra-urban development almost as a structural component. The material manifestation of neoliberal urbanism in contemporary Indian urban policy is resting on an aggressive strategy of politico-economic restructuring of space and regulation of basic services through upscale governance that itself has become an essential component of capitalist expansion. Section 2 will examine the recently launched Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM, henceforth mentioned as National Urban Renewal Mission (NURM)) of the central government, the official carrier of neoliberal urbanism in the current time, and its various implications. Section 3 will illustrate the process of restructuring in few cities (following NURM prescriptions) in different states, ruled by political parties of different ideological stripes and colour but marked by an uncanny oneness in pursuing the said strategies. Section 4 will discuss the existing and emerging spaces of neoliberalism in Mumbai, the country’s budding “international financial centre” with a focus on specific “development” projects. Section 5, while concluding, will examine the imperatives of neoliberal urbanism in the Indian context and the associated contradictions.

2 Neoliberal Urbanism: The National Urban Renewal Mission

Indian cities of various sizes are being remodelled in recent times as “world class cities” to function as nodes of circulation of global finance and hi-tech activities of a diverse nature. Apparently the essential objective is to make these cities sufficiently investment friendly, acceptable to the credit rating agencies and help them emerge as geostrategic points to further neoliberalism in the G lobal South. To achieve this, a homogenised planning vision is being floated at the behest of global capital, ushering in a new era of remapping the “urban” by intense gentrification of the urban space and recasting of the urban form and governance. Reconstructing a new geography of centrality and marginality, the said vision has aggravated the contradictions of “concentration” and “dispersal” in the existing institutional landscape and reformulated the relational character of specific locations for new u sers, for which a process of place-specific valorisation and de-valorisation (Banerjee-Guha 2007) is found to set in. The overall character represents a gradual fragmentation of territories, economic decline and displacement of a large majority, increasing socio-spatial inequality and a simultaneous emergence of new/modern activities in specific locales, implying an aggravation of “spaces of difference” (Banerjee-Guha 2006). In the process of reconstructing space as a part of the above re-conceptualisation of the contemporary “urban”, displacement and dispossession of the poor and weaker sections have surfaced as a fundamental aspect, aided by

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

other methods of marginalisation, like closure of small-scale manufacturing and retail units, anti-poor legal order, regulations against informal workers, hawkers, waste pickers, privatisation of basic services like water, sanitation, housing, health and education, and, last but not the least, restricting access to open spaces for making available more arenas for elitist consumption. Ideology, armed with power, is found to bring about patterns of domination and repression in many Indian cities (Banerjee-Guha 2004) in current times.

Since independence, externally assisted urban sector projects in India have accounted for more than $230 million. In the mid1990s, following the introduction of the new economic policy, the pro-liberalisation lobby identified modernisation of the infrastructure of cities as a major panacea to get rid of urban decadence. Consequently, in 1996, the Expert Group on Commercialisation of Infrastructure estimated a requirement of around Rs 2,50,000 crore as investment in urban infrastructure for the coming 10 years. This made the entry of private capital an imperative in the urban development scenario, with the public sector, as announced, lacking funds. Accordingly, a major overhauling of the administrative and legislative frameworks of the government was suggested, which smoothened the process of involving IFIs like the World Bank, ADB, United States Agency for International Development and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development in the drafting of the urban reforms mandate. It marked the beginning of a new regime of regulation in the Indian urban sector that cleared the ground for vigorous implementation of state-sponsored neoliberal programmes in a number of cities in subsequent years, impacting municipal finance, infrastructure, basic services, the land and housing market, land use, urban form, etc, and most importantly, the shelter and livelihoods of millions of urban poor. Reproduction of urban space in this manner reflected the contradictions of economic globalisation at a local scale (Sassen 1999), exposing a deep structural imbalance in which modernity and post-modernity are marked with “ephemerality” and chaotic flux (Harvey 1990; B anerjee-Guha 2006). With the urban built environment having production and consumption relations, the “superstructural” impacts of the above restructuring surfaced in the political and cultural life of these cities (Banerjee-Guha 2004). A point that needs to be mentioned here is that since the 1990s, the IFIs have vigorously taken part, more than before, in drafting the policy framework of several nations. The agreements and treaties signed at their behest at cross-country levels have enforced a mandatory “opening up” of the governance of these countries that has drastically gone to replace the state and democratic policymaking framework by non-state bodies, sacrificing general welfare, labour security and environmental protection at various levels.

Holding the process of unrelenting urbanisation responsible for the acute urban crisis in the country, in December 2005, the Indian central government launched its largest post-independence urban planning initiative, entitled the JNNURM, henceforth mentioned as NURM, aimed at pursuing urban reforms and putting the cities on a fast track of development. The primary evil identified by the Mission was the gap between the disproportionately fast pace of urban growth and urban infrastructural development.

Economic & Political Weekly

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

Simultaneously, urban poverty was identified as the prime cause for unregulated urban growth, environmental damage and growing crime rates in cities. The raison d’être for the Mission echoed the rationale of neoliberal policies in general: that the reforms would lead to economic growth assisted with a higher rate of urban isation, that cities covered by the Mission would emerge as “engines of growth” for the respective urban systems, would be more liveable, secure and, of course, global in character, materialising the concept of a modern homogenised urban society. That the premise of the above homogenisation rested on an acute c ontestation of the urban space (Banerjee-Guha 2002b) and a s elective “first worlding” of certain areas (Katz 2001), remained hidden. A careful examination shows that Indian cities are fast emerging as critical zones of contestation (Banerjee-Guha 2008), with a minuscule but exceedingly powerful global society and a huge majority of the marginalised and dispossessed poor, s tanding spatially anchored that goes to create backgrounds of intense conflict and utterly contradictory/competitive urban landscapes. The timing of the introduction of the NURM juxtaposes with that of a number of anti-people policies at the macro and micro levels that are essentially part of the New Economic Policy (NEP) of 1991. In case of urban policy, rebuilding cities b ecame an ongoing leitmotif.

The total cost of the NURM was estimated at Rs 50,000 crore for a period of seven years beginning in April 2005. The Mission aimed at developing 63 Indian cities into “world class” sustainable cities. Since the early 1990s, as the concept of “liveable Indian cities” has disappeared from the Indian planning lexicon, getting replaced by “world class cities”, the major thrust of the Mission went to infrastructure, like wide roads, flyovers, tunnels, skyways, airports, mega commercial complexes, real estates, and open spaces for recreation, all with an aspiration to achieve international standards. Cities of all size classes are targeted: seven from category A or mega cities, 28 from category B or metro cities, and the remaining 25 of the 28 listed in category C are urban agglomerations (UAs) with less than one million population (Mahadevia 2006). The Mission is classified into two parts: Submission-A, entitled urban infrastructure and governance (UIG) accounts for 65% of the total funds, to be administered by the Ministry of Urban Development. Projects on roads, transport, associated infrastructure, water supply, sanitation and beautification (read gentrification) have come under this head. Sub-mission B, having 35% of the total funds, has been earmarked for providing Basic Services to the Urban Poor (BSUP), which is being administered by the Ministry of Urban Employment and Poverty Alleviation (MUEPA). Items like slum improvement, rehabilitation of the displaced, access to basic services and housing projects for the urban poor come under this head.

Although a classification of reforms into “optional” and “mandatory” was theoretically made, essentially, in practice, all NURM prescribed urban governance reforms seem to be mandatory for cities undertaking the Mission programmes. In addition, all urban local bodies (ULBs) need to prove financial stability for accessing capital market funds (Jamwal 2006). A further precondition for the states to access funds is that they need to set up parastatal, non-elected nodal agencies that will be made responsible for evaluating projects, releasing funds to ULBs/parastatal units, managing the same funds and monitoring projects. Projects with private sector participation are to be given priority over projects submitted by the ULBs/parastatal units by themselves. A central government committee headed by a private bank chairman had earlier justified the “inability” of the public sector to finance infrastructure projects in which subsequently 100% foreign direct investment (FDI) was invited. At the behest of the World Bank, in the Eleventh Plan draft, public-private partnership (PPP) had a lready been accepted as the prime alternative to fund infrastructure projects. From nearly Rs 260 crore in 2007-08, the infrastructure budget is expected to increase to a whopping Rs 574 crore (approximately) in 2011-12 (GOI 2008). To woo the private sector and safeguard its profit rates, the government even went ahead to provide “viability gap funding”, i e, sharing 40% of the capital cost of the projects. Similar concessions were termed as “geo-bribes” by Smith (2002) in his analysis of fiscal concessions provided by the New York City administration to global corporations to make the New York Stock Exchange remain in the city. ppp models for provision of basic services were thus projected as the ultimate panacea in NURM too, which went at par with the central government’s National Common Minimum Programme (NCMP), aiming at removing all impediments to the land and housing markets. Interestingly, no provision was kept in the M ission for public debate on any of the projects (Jamwal 2006). The above direction in the urban policy in search of economic growth and competitiveness not only embodied the new politicoeconomic regime introduced in 1991 as a part of the prevailing global regime but also emerged as a catalyst of urban and political change in the country.

In order to be eligible, the municipal corporations required to prepare City Development Plans (CDP), a 25-year vision document defining the direction of development. The Mission’s original idea to have the plans chalked out with “active pubic consultation” was in reality a hypothetical myth: the majority of the plans were ready in a month’s time, hurriedly evaluated by hired bodies, following which, within three months, the central government disbursed Rs 86,482.95 crore for 23 infrastructure projects. All previous central government funding and urban development schemes, such as the National Slum Development Programme, Swarna Jayanti Sahakari Rozgar Yojana, Valmiki-Ambedkar Aawaas Yojana (for housing the socially marginalised urban poor), the National Transport Policy, etc, were brought under the Mission. Projects that were given priority were mega infrastructure projects, gigantic commercial complexes, shopping malls, cultural facilities and urban spectacles. One by one, cities started joining the bandwagon and pledged commitment to private capital for transforming their physical and institutional landscapes. With the central government retaining the right to assess the progress of the development projects, “efficiency” became the catchword that systematically went to justify the entry of private capital in running the projects. Several non-governmental organisations in different cities were co-opted to sway people about the efficacy of ppps.

A careful look at NURM proves that it is essentially a reformlinked investment programme of private capital targeting Indian cities. Based on subtle forms of competition, place-marketing and regulatory undercutting for attracting investment, it is tangled by a range of conditionalities at state and city government levels. The key items are: (i) privatisation/commercialisation of basic services through ppps with the introduction of user fees; (ii) liberalisation of land and real estate market through repeal of Urban Land Ceiling Acts and change in Rent Control Acts; (iii) development of a stronger mortgage market alongside 100% FDI in h ousing and real estate; (iv) easier land use conversion norms; (v) reforms in property tax and reduction in stamp duties; (vi) financial and administrative restructuring of municipalities through i mplementation of the 74th amendment of the Constitution; (vii) rationalisation and outsourcing; (viii) introduction of e-governance;

(ix) valorisation of private sector and private credit rating agencies over elected civic bodies; (x) co-opting the middle class through high flown rules like the right to information, public disclosure law, citizens’ participation law, etc; and (xi) bringing the urban poor in the orbit of pay-and-use framework, for example, user fee for basic services, etc (CASUMM 2006). The sweeping transformation of urban gover nance is meant to create a functional impotence of democratically elected bodies and e ncroach upon the constitutionally devolved areas of state g overnment j urisdiction. Such modalities are often eulogised by the country’s business and industrial tycoons while justi fying the need for having chief executive officers (CEOs) for modern city a dministration in place of state urban ministers or municipal commissioners.

I will take up two of the above issues a little more in detail to expose the diverse pathways of neoliberal localisation. They reflect, besides the politics of the projects, their context and interaction with the socio-economic set-up. First, the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act (ULCRA). It was passed in 1976 to restrict the concentration of land in the hands of a few as well as its speculation. A ceiling was introduced on the ownership of vacant urban land in order to make more land available for the economically weaker sections. The central Act was repealed by the union government in 1999. Still with the state governments it was a vital piece of legislation for making surplus land available at affordable prices. The NURM made it mandatory to repeal the entire Act in order to access Mission funds and thereby brought a huge quantity of urban land into the market. With 100% FDI allowed in real estate in early 2005, FDI in real estate as a percentage of total FDI inflows increased from 4.5% in 2003-04 to 26.5% in 2006-07, making slums in large cities excee dingly v ulnerable as a future source of land for these activities. In Delhi, since the late 1990s more than 1,00,000 families have been evicted while in Mumbai during 2004-05, more than 90,000 slum units were demolished (CASUMM 2006). All these were b eing planned when a series of studies were bringing out facts on the shortfall of urban housing. National Building Organisation estimated that 24.7 million people would be rendered homeless in 2006 of which 97% would be constituted by the urban poor (Singh 2006). Repeal of the ULCA in several cities is found to have created havoc by making land of different nature and size readily available for speculation. Second, the mandatory requirement for the ULBs to become financially self-reliant essentially means a reduction in their budgetary allocation and

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

restriction in their political and financial capacity. Moreover, without having any role in authoring the cdp, they are obliged to administer its urban development projects, sanctioned by parastatal bodies. For example, the Karnataka Urban Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation, a parastatal body in Karnataka (entrusted to receive the total central and state government funds for urban development for the state), disbursed the funds among the ULBs for running all related projects. It has also become obligatory for these bodies to raise funds from the capital market that prefers mega projects for funding even if they go against the larger interest of the society. For example, transport projects sanctioned in the first year of the Mission for Hyderabad and Nagpur at a cost of Rs 6,128 crore and Rs 8,628 crore, respectively, were quite against the National Urban Transport policy with its goal to strengthen the public transport system.

The urban projects that the NURM is pursuing, it is well known, are a material expression of a developmental logic that views mega projects and place-marketing as means for waging a competitive struggle to attract investment capital. Their impact is felt at all levels – local, regional, national and international – illustrating the concrete process through which postmodern forms, post-Fordist economic dynamics and neoliberal systems of governance are crafted, producing a new articulation of regulatory scales. The associated new urban policy, developing in parallel with the neoliberal economic policy thus squarely revolves around re-centring the city, replacing old forms, functions and organisational configurations by a new urbanity and assertive, entrepreneurial urban governance that will stand the tests imposed by a global and neoliberal world order (Figure 1). Simultaneously, the re-imaging of the city space is made keeping in mind the consumption pattern of the investor, developer (Swyngedouw et al 2002) and the rich, and least of all, the common people whose sweat and toil have contributed to the city’s growth in different phases. With this perspective, let us have a brief overview of the recent developments in a few cities.

3 Neoliberal Urbanism: Examples from Cities

It is quite apparent that the NURM is more a requirement for IFIs and big capital to invest in Indian cities for making profit. As mentioned, the ULBs and state governments, as part of the reforms, are required to take loans from commercial institutions like the World Bank, ADB, Infrastructure Development Finance Company (IDFC) or Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) for infrastructural funding that are given high priority. Hyderabad had to restructure a number of public sector enterprises in accessing a fund of Rs 1,500 crore for infrastructure from the World Bank. All infrastructure projects are being administered at a fast track pace. On the other hand, even three years after the introduction of the Mission, funds for BsUP have either not been released in most cities or released funds have remained unutilised. This indicates a deep structural anomaly that exists between the two sub-missions, i e, the modern infrastructure and gentrification projects on the one hand, and the BsUP, on the other. The validity of their incorporation in the same Plan as two interrelated parts is highly questionable when they

Economic & Political Weekly

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

SPECIAL ARTICLE Figure 1: Relationship between the New Economic Policy, New Urban Policy and the








Reforms of Municipalities




Note: Developed from Swyngedouw et al 2002.

actually are in contradiction with each other. The globally funded large infrastructure projects that are being artificially injected (Baran 1958) into the existing socio-economic structures of several cities for the benefit of a small section of the population have already started impacting the poor in a negative manner by displacing them from their occupation and homes that cannot be compensated by any rehabilitation package. Above all, the

ominous link between the NURM and global capital as a part of a larger neoliberal capitalist agenda is getting exposed by the urgency of implementing such projects that have close involvement with IFIs and global consultant firms like McKinsey in their formulation in several cities. Take, for example, Pune’s development plan. It was drafted by the Credit Rating Information Services of India Limited (CRISIL) with technical assistance from the Financial Institutions Reform and Expansion-Debt (FIRE-D) project of the USAID. Or, for that matter, the formation of the Municipal Association of West Bengal, a product of the same FIRE-D project (Banerjee and Mukherjee 2008). Along with the IFIs, key policymaking academic institutions in the country that are fundedbyinternationaldevelopmentorganisationshave also been involved in formulating mission policies to make the subsequent process of intervention easier (Herman and Chomsky 1988).

Let us consider the cases of a few more cities and states. In and around Kolkata, abolition of the ulcra has opened up p ossibilities of recreating huge space for upscale activities for which, similar to the mill lands of Mumbai, former industrial areas are being chosen. For example, the Calcutta Riverside Project coming up in Batanagar, to the south of Kolkata metropolis on a 262 acre of land, covering more than 80% land area of the former Bata India and Batanagar industrial township. Due to outsourcing of production, a practice the factory has been following since long, the organised workforce has dwindled from 15,000 to 1,600 workers in recent years. The Riverside Project aims at housing a nine-hole golf course (that will use an enormous amount of water from the surrounding region), high-end villas (where a duplex flat will cost about Rs 1.11 crore), condominiums, hotels, IT Park (for which an SEZ is being planned), hospitals and schools and a shopping mall that would be one of the largest in eastern India. The 1.2 km riverside is being developed for recreational activities for residents and visitors. For materialising the project, the Bata Company has set up Riverbank Holdings, a joint venture with Calcutta Metropolitan Group (an alliance between Kolkata Metropolitan Development A uthority and United Credit Bellani Group). Apprehension of the existing factory workers about the possibility of the remaining land and factory infrastructure being sold off soon increases every day (Mukherjee and Banerjee 2008). Similar developmental activities are found to have taken over the 400 acre Hindustan Motors land in Uttarpara located north of Kolkata. With real estate (Mukherjee and Banerjee 2008) stepping in, not only the former workers (Hindustan Motors has been defunct since long), but a whole lot of neighbourhood communities have faced eviction. Former Annapurna Glass factory in Jadavpur (in south Kolkata) has been recently converted into a gigantic residential complex while the defunct Joy Engineering Works nearby, is housing eastern India’s largest real estate complex with four 35 storey residential towers and a mall occupying 10,00,000 sq ft area. Large market complexes, formerly owned by Kolkata M unicipal Corporation, each occupying 3-4 acres, are being handed over to private capital under the pretext of lack of maintenance and resource crunch. The state government has d eclared that within two years Kolkata and the adjoining city of Howrah will be having 12 more multiplexes (Bandyopadhyay and Mukhopadhyay 2009). All these “developments” that are coming up under NURM projects have an underlying logic of urban renewal that aims to create economic regeneration in declining industrial areas, promote a post-industrial international city, foster diversification of the urban sectoral mix and support job creation in presumably “dynamic” sectors like culture and leisure. To preclude resistance, systematically poorer affected groups like petty traders, hawkers or vendors are being labelled as e ncroachers or illegal occupants of public spaces.

Like Kolkata, in Hyderabad most of the NURM housing projects for the poor are systematically located in the outskirts of the metropolis, contributing towards a process of making “slum free” cities in India. The relocated settlements, devoid of basic infrastructure, have no socio-economic livelihood base that the poor can depend on to continue/restart their struggle for survival. Moreover, increase in the gaps between the plan budgets and the actual expenditure incurred proves the real purpose of the M ission (Varma 2008). What is more, the scrapping of the ULCRA in the city has come up as a significant means to “reclaim” lands on which slums were built. In addition, the Hyderabad metro rail project coming under the infrastructure head is going to demolish huge pedestrian shopping areas like Sultan Bazaar and Badi Chawdi that are almost historical landmarks. The project, by the way, will also deface about 27 of the 137 listed heritage precincts of the city. Interestingly, the successful bidder of the project, Navbharat-Maytas-ItalThai (ITD-Thailand)-Infrastructure Leasing Financial Services (ILFS) consortium has not asked for any “viability gap funding”, rather it has offered a royalty of Rs 30,311 crore to the state government for which it is even proclaimed that Hyderabad is going to get the metro rail “for free” with a “negative subsidy” (Ramachandraiah 2009). In reality, “viability gap funding” cannot match the concessions that are being offered to Maytas. According to the corporate group’s demand, Real Estate Development (RED) and rail-related infrastructure have been accepted as a part of the rail system development for which 538 acres in various locations are being handed over to Maytas. In case the state government fails to handover these lands, alternative sites of comparable size and potential are being kept ready. Local taxes will not be applicable to RED that would receive all benefits under the Andhra Pradesh Infrastructure Development Enabling Act, 2001. Last but not the least, as per the Competing Facility (CF) clause, while the project will have monopoly on passengers in the three routes and may levy a higher tariff during peak hours, the State Road Transport Corporation will not be allowed to introduce modern buses on these routes on which it carries about three million passengers daily at a much lower rate. The huge economic and social costs that t housands of people displaced by the project will have to bear in addition to the cost of land acquisition are also not mentioned (Ramachandraiah 2009).

The above story of inequitable real estate activities getting intrinsically entrenched with urban infrastructure projects has become a common feature in the contemporary Indian urban planning scenario. In Bangalore, for example, under the guise of ppps, the current development policy is prioritising the concerns of the new middle class, especially IT professionals, in taking up huge real estate projects (Mukherjee 2008). Even smaller cities like Bhopal or Kochi use similar rhetoric of transforming cities with modern lifestyle, healthier environment and better quality of life for the poor (Singh 2008). In reality, in Bhopal slums are being shifted to distant peripheries and heavy user charges are levied on basic infrastructure in the city slums. The actual number of slum-dwellers in this city has been reduced in the official statistics (the slum population of 3.99 lakh in 1991 came down to 1.26 lakh in 2001) by which large sections of the urban poor are labelled encroachers (Singh 2008). Cities like Chandigarh, Ahmedabad or Jaipur with an average population of 15 lakh are also hit. One-third of the 300 new malls in the next five years are going to be located in these cities (TOI 2009) that have started experiencing a tremendous real estate boom. A growing interest from peripatetic capital, which hopes to reap profit from the comparatively cheaper land, labour and infrastructure cost of these cities, is evident.

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

In spite of differences between the projects from one city to another and the divergent political colour of the state governments, the said approach to urban planning that strongly reflects the ideology of the NEP, is applicable to all major projects. The relationship between the NEP, the NURM and urban development projects has been summarised in Figure 1. One of its key components is the shift from distributive policies, welfare provisions and direct service provisions to more market-driven and marketoriented approaches aimed at promoting competitive restructuring. In most cities, urban renewal is projected as an opportunity to change economic hierarchies within the urban region by c reating new jobs and thereby strengthening the urban economy. In almost all these projects, closing the rent gap and cashing in on the produced revalorisation of the developed land have surfaced as a principal feature (Swyngedouw et al 2002). Despite their varying forms, the projects generally involve an assertive and entrepreneurial style of urban governance. The latter, in the name of bringing greater flexibility and efficiency, essentially subordinates the formal government structure to quasi-private and autonomous institutions that are often projected as social capacity builders having local embeddedness. In reality, these forms of urban governance significantly lack in accountability and formal rules of representation and participation. As a result, they often operate through co-optation and invitation thereby impacting the regulatory environment and the nature of interventions.

Going by the impact in several cities, a persistent fact that gets reiterated about the Mission is its systematic tendency towards increasing social inequality, making the disadvantaged sections of the society more vulnerable. That this constitutes the fundamental core of neoliberalism (Harvey 2005) and not its by-product (many researchers are imploring that NURM needs to be more inclusive and committed towards the poor) is something that needs a thorough exposure. When the very purpose of NURM is to facilitate neoliberal capitalist accumulation, it is obvious that the poor, who have been facing dispossession due to socio-economic r estructuring in various forms, will further slide down in the r emade urban landscapes (Smith 2002). Interventions through laws and regulations by the state and collateral organisations only strengthen the above exclusionist mechanism that evidently expresses the location of power in the society. The exact mix of private market, monopolistic control and state intervention, however, varies from city to city that serves the purpose of social reproduction of a specific region and goes to make a series of subsystems (Banerjee-Guha 2002a), separated from each other by regional competitive barriers and concurrently connected through a wider neoliberal ideology.

In the above backdrop, the following section takes a close look at the contemporary restructuring process in Mumbai, the prime global city of India and a major recipient of NURM funds.

4 Neoliberalism in Mumbai: Accumulation and Exclusion

Since the wave of liberalisation formally swept the country in early 1990s, efforts of the public and private sectors, to make Indian cities competitive, became stronger. Since the 1980s, with the closure of the cotton mills – the city’s economic backbone till the early 1980s, providing direct employment to 2,50,000

Economic Political Weekly

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

w orkers and indirect jobs to 2,50,000 more – Mumbai started experiencing industrial decline. Following the NEP, organised employment drastically fell in many other industries (Banerjee-Guha 2002a). During the same time, however, a new identity for the city was getting reconstituted: Mumbai as the country’s future international financial and service centre. Actually, the industrial decline was not an isolated phenomenon but an indicator of many other changes that were going to come, subsequent to the official implantation of neoliberal policy armed with its intense “flexibilised” model of planning. With the changing image of the city, the elected municipal body started being overpowered by powerful corporate consultant groups in terms of shaping the future course of urban development. The previous planning perspective with a focus on extension and up-gradation of basic services, was replaced by competitive strategies that promoted cost competition through fiscal conservation, tax incentives, d eregulation of land use planning, growing role of consultant firms, ppps, and last but not the least, privatisation and marketisation of the local state (Harvey 1989). In the following paragraphs, the above trajectory of neoliberalism in Mumbai, intertwined with the theme of entrepreneurial governance, economic regeneration and interventionist control of urban space will be discussed. All these issues are not only interrelated, but deeply conjoined in shaping the future expression of citizenship (MacLeod 2002) and social justice in the city.

The task of reconstituting the status of Mumbai as a globalised city was initially achieved through production disaggregation and “flexibilisation” of labour (Sassen 1991; Banerjee-Guha 2002b) that reflected a wider restructuring of the economy. Together, it reconstructed a new image of Mumbai as a “world class” finance centre, seemingly more attractive than its former identity of being the industrial capital of the country. Interestingly, way back in 1993, McKinsey, the international consultancy firm, better known as a universal catalyst for private capital in urban projects, had made a strong case for developing Mumbai as a global financial centre. For improving the business environment of the city, it had two suggestions: relaxation of land acquisition rules and strict control of labour. Even if one overlooks the knotty link between improved business environment and easy land acquisition (for making upscale commercial and residential space easily available), the issue of labour management (read disciplining l abour) should not be ignored. On the same line, Bombay First, a hallowed NGO of the Bombay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, set up in 1995, with directors of big corporate houses on its Board, came up with flamboyant ideas about Mumbai’s crucial role in the country’s progress in the liberalisation process and

o ffered support (Bombay First 2003) in helping the city emerge as a finance and service centre. Such groups, promoted by finance and business capital, have become ever more instrumental in r ecent times in reformulating the development policies in several cities (Banerjee-Guha 2004) in India.

For Mumbai, however, the story of state machinery, business and commercial capital forming a nexus to influence the implementation of anti-poor projects and appropriation of public land for private use is nothing new (Banerjee-Guha 1995). The interesting part is that in the post-NEP years such practices were found

Table 1: Mumbai’s Growth Potential As Per ‘Vision 2013’
Sector Potential GDP Potential Employment
(Rs crore) Growth (%) Potential**

* Excludes mfg in the hinterland and transportation/logistics. Includes other sectors.


more vehemently integrated into the city’s planning corpus. The Regional Plan (1996-2011) of the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) evidenced it. Drastically contradicting its former position of prioritising decentralisation and dispersal, the Development Authority, in the new Plan, projected the metropolis as the capital of international trade, finance, s ervices and hi-tech industries and advocated more centralised investment (MMRDA 1995) in the metropolis. The Plan had an e erie semblance to the 10 year “Vision Plan” of Bombay First p ublished in 2003, two years prior to the of

e ntertainment/telecom for the coming years, the plan advocated either total privatisation or ppp for projects in all these services (one must recall that the maintenance of Mumbai-Pune Expressway (Chaware 2004) was privatised for 15 years in 2004). The relevant chapters of NURM almost echoed the heightening need for privatisation. The Vision identified job potentiality in construction, hotels/tourism/recreation and modern format retail that would create 5,00,000 jobs in the next 10 years in upgraded museums, multi-purpose indoor stadiums and convention centres (in line with Madison Square Garden), in cafés and restaurants on the western and eastern sea-fronts, restaurants and bars, in supermarkets and hypermarkets to be located inside the city and on highways. Nowhere there was a mention of Mumbai’s potential as a strong production centre or the million jobs it had lost. The basis of “Vision Mumbai” was a shift of capital from production to built environment for which the city was identified as the future consumption centre of the country. Growth of the city, targeted at 8% to 10% a year, was envisaged through some specific sectors. First was the services market – financial services were to gear up based on the already existing network of financial institutions, law firms, investment banks, etc. More than 1,00,000 jobs were envisaged to be provided by this sector. The second thrust was on the health sector and entertainment. With its creative class, production

Table 2: Funding Mumbai ‘Vision 2013’ (Rs crore)

ficial announcement of the NURM. The rea-houses, financiers and distributors and with

Total investment required 2,00,000

son why I elaborate the features of the “Vi-the overseas market accepting the main-


sion” in the following paragraphs is that stream Indian cinema, Mumbai was desig


through this Plan the notion of neoliberal-nated as the chosen Indian city to create


ism as economic regeneration and govern-90,000 more jobs in entertainment and

(PWFSONFOUFRVJUZ mentality was legitimised in Mumbai, fol-Source: Business World%FDFNCFSQQ healthcare. The “Vision” further intended to

lowing which the distinctions between state, civil society and market (MacLeod 2002) got considerably blurred and the city space, in the name of planning, was mobilised as an arena for both market-oriented economic growth and elite consumption practices. It was undauntedly arrogant about supporting the claim of the affluent for a larger share of city space and accordingly suggested several methods of capitalisation of space. The official cdp and NURM projects in subsequent years thoroughly integrated it, in both letter and spirit, with a singular focus on corporatisation of city space.

The plan document, prepared by the same McKinsey Company in “active collaboration” with state government organisations like the MMRDA, and the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM), benchmarked Mumbai with 10 other cities, namely, London, New York, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sao Paulo, Sydney, Bangkok, Rio-de-Janeiro, Toronto and finally, Shanghai. In its preface, the “Vision” stated to have

conducted interviews with more than 30 key stakeholders of Mumbai, holding more than 10 brainstorming workshops with major government institutions, business groups and NGOs, researched and developed case studies of five international and five domestic city transformations...and consulted works done by McKinsey in other parts of the world in order to develop a framework and database for benchmarking Mumbai with other international cities (Bombay First 2003).

Targeting four “high-end services” for the city, namely, financial services, healthcare, IT-enabled services and media/

put the city back to its premier status as the capital of information technology (not industrial!). Upcoming l ocalities of north-east Mumbai near Andheri, emerging as the future IT hub, were the forerunners (Business World 2003: 45) of such designs (Tables 1, 2 and 3). The state government endorsed the Vision Plan in totality and came out with its Mumbai Transformation Project in 2003 to transform Mumbai into an “International Financial Centre” (IFC) with world class infrastructure, citizen-friendly services and business-friendly environment. Neoliberalism thus became an overarching frame of reference for contradictory discursive events that linked livelihoods and everyday aspirations of individuals to a new conceptualisation of the urban, legitimising the integration of the urban bourgeoisie into competitive city governance through the “revanchist” (Smith 1996) methodology of urban restructuring. The process was predicated on an aggressive rescaling of the State and ensuing

Table 3: Boosting Land Supply for Realisation of Mumbai ‘Vision 2013’

Levers Land Supply (%)







Source: Business World%FDFNCFSQQ

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

Figure 2: Vision Mumbai Location of the Golden Triangle

Areas inside and in the periphery of the (PMEFO5SJBOHMF

reorganisation of alliances and coalition partners of urban d evelopment.

The entire project was estimated to have a cost of $40 billion (about Rs 1,82,600 crore) to be spent over 10 years out of which 25% would have to be invested by the state government. The 75% private investment in housing, telecom and services sector would be based on market demand (Business World 2003: 44). Again, not without logic, “Vision Mumbai” in many sections ran identical with the 1996-2011 Regional Plan of MMRDA and almost in totality with NURM.

The clientele of the Vision Plan was clearly earmarked. Upgraded infrastructure and entertainment facilities were slotted for a “high quality talented” section of the population. New urban programmes specially focused on modernisation of security provisions (an eight-pronged programme) was chalked out for the same target group “in the face of economic decline, increasing violence, crime and worsening of quality of life due to proliferation of slums” (Bombay First 2003). Reiterating the notion of “spatiality of crime” the Vision Plan advocated a deeply interventionist agenda in justifying the need for maintaining private police forces for gated communities, welfare reform, community regeneration and designing public spaces with maximum surveillance. The objective of the Plan was to drastically segregate the

Economic Political Weekly

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

poor areas by intensifying militarisation of the city space and increasing ghettoisation.

The primary source of land was identified in the heart of the city that roughly takes the shape of a triangle (Banerjee-Guha 2004). The northern point of this “golden” triangle is located in the emerging IT hub of Andheri (east); the right arm stretches from Andheri to the dock area in the south and touches its southeastern point; the base goes west and joins the south-western point in the mill areas of Parel and Matunga; the left arm traverses north to reach Andheri through (a) sprawling mill lands, now converted into upper class commercial-residential areas, (b) Dharavi, the huge slum that is being made ready for gentrification, and (c) Bandra-Kurla commercial complex built on evacuated slum land and the bed of Mithi river (Figure 2). In order to get to the heart of Mumbai’s restructuring, it is extremely necessary to understand the nature of transformation of these areas inside the triangle. Together, they go to make the primary source of land for the city’s redevelopment, as indicated in the cdp. The sheer quantity is enormous: 522 ha (600 acres) comes only from the mill lands (from where 2,00,000 workers have been displaced and many await it) with a sprawling working class area and a low income neighbourhood. The original development control rules had suggested that one-third of each (sold out) mill land would be surrendered to the state government for the use of workers. Subsequently, the clause was deleted. The estimated land in the dock area (three and a half time bigger than the mill lands) is 753 ha (1,860 acres) out of which 445 ha is reclaimed. The Bandra-Kurla complex, coming up as an elite commercial area as a “city within a city” (MMRDA 1995: 15) has 370 ha located near the international and domestic airports, to the north of the mill lands where office space was sold in 1994 at Rs 2,800 per sq ft, much higher than the prevailing rate. Then there is Dharavi, housing more than 70,000 hutments on 174 ha. The redevelopment cost of Dharavi has been estimated at Rs 5,600 crore that would convert the entire area into a model township (the plan has been prepared by a US-based urban designer) with a large number of high rise buildings for free sale in the market and a proportionate number for housing the slum-dwellers. The state government has announced a modern sports complex for post redevelopment Dharavi. The second destination of the sports activities is identified at Andheri, the IT hub that is already crowded with IT-enabled service units and real estate companies. Redevelopment projects in all these areas are with the private sector with the State acting as an abettor.

The transmogrification of Mumbai largely depends on the rate and intensity of gentrification of the above areas and the surroundings. McKinsey has identified mill areas in Dadar-Parel, Port Trust lands in the Dock area, Bandra-Kurla Complex, BDD chawls in Worli and increased FSI in already built-up areas as the source of land for redevelopment. By mid-2008 almost the entire mill area was shaped into a modern commercial hub with global chain shops, corporate houses and hyper market complexes (D’Monte 2002). Proactive pursuit of real estate mega projects has been a primary component in the redevelopment endeavours in the area. For example, China Mills with 5,00,000 sq ft of land has been sold to the Dosti Group Builders at a price of Rs 53 crore on which six residential high rise buildings, each about 20 storey high, will come up. With an entrepreneurial planning model facilitating speedy conversion of land use, financial institutions and private banks are found to come out as active partners and buyers of the renewed infrastructure and assets, initiating a fast track gentrification in the so long lower middle/working class area (Bharucha 2006). The segregated gated communities, shopping malls and publicly subsidised corporate plazas essentially represent the living embodiments of “interdictory spaces” (Flusty 2001), designed to exclude those adjudged to be unsuitable and threatening, whose class and cultural positions diverge from the targeted consumers of the new space. Growing aesthetisation of the urban space and promotion of signature projects are drastically reconstructing the working class-oriented local culture of this central Mumbai tract into a globally-oriented homogenised one, similar to what happened in Toronto in the 1980s (Kipfer and Keil 2002; Keil 2002) and in hundreds of other cities as a fallout of the neoliberal crackdown. Land for urban redevelopment, according to McKinsey, will be further made available from Coastal Regulation Zones II and III (relaxation of rules has been suggested), no-development zones so far reserved as green areas, salt pan lands in distant Kanjurmarg area for housing the poor, and Gorai beach to the north of Mumbai for making a Special Entertainment Zone.

Dharavi calls for a special mention. One of Asia’s biggest slums, Dharavi is located to the north of the mill lands, on the left arm of the golden triangle. Covering an area of 174 ha with a population of more than 10,00,000 (9% of the total population of Mumbai), Dharavi is a vibrant economic hub (Sharma 2000) having a large population of informal workers engaged in diverse activities: leather works, pottery, machine part manufacturing, recycling and repairing, garment making, dry food making, to name a few. With more than 2,000 shops, many small workshops and an annual turnover of Rs 4,000 crore, living conditions in Dharavi have remained inhuman (D’Souza 2002). Currently this slum has become the centre of attraction for planners. With Mumbai’s northward expansion, Dharavi gradually came to occupy a significantly central location and with the city’s globalisation design finally to emerge as a tremendously profitable source of land for redevelopment. In order to make Mumbai a world class competitive Financial Investment Centre (HPEC 2007), the Mumbai Transformation Project has suggested that slums and slum population of the city be reduced drastically, from 60% to 10%. Redevelopment of Dharavi thus became an imperative under NURM, which according to the Municipal Corporation of Mumbai will soon be converted into a vibrant, well-planned commercial centre for which global players have been involved through international bidding process. The government has offered 220 sq ft tenements to each household in multistoried buildings that would come up in 40% of the existing slum land (the remaining 60% would be sold in the market that would compensate the builders for providing free tenements to slum-dwellers). The question that is being ignored is whether this rehabilitation package at all suits the space requirement of the households for continuing their economic activities. Unless this is attended to, it is obvious that noncompliance of the new space on the above matter will finally be the cause of “voluntary” eviction of the slum-dwellers who have formed the Dharavi Bachao Andolan Committee (Save Dharavi Committee) to oppose the renewal project. A stay order from the high court has stalled further implementation of the project till a proper survey on the number of households eligible for compensation is done and legal consent given by the residents. However, in the prevailing euphoria about the ensuing success of the e mblematic renewal project that is turned into a symbol of the restructured and revitalised metropolis, cast with a powerful i mage of creativity and success, official support to land sale, zoning changes and land-use conversion underwriting gentrification, justice to Dharavi residents will more and more become a contentious issue.

To preclude social unrest that may result due to dispossession, formidable interventionist strategies suggested by Bombay First are being implemented in the public and private domains in very many ways. These are done by integrating surveillance in urban planning, by cleansing the material space of pavement dwellers, hawkers, informal workers and the homeless, relocating them in “special housing zones” in peripheral lands, disregarding not only the issue of social justice but ecological considerations too. There has been a recent state government decision to rehouse slumdwellers in the salt pan areas of Kanjurmarg that has so long been the city’s organic bulwark against nature’s fury. Simultaneously, control of the urban space (Rajagopal 2002) by various power groups has increased. Singular identities of affluent citizens that had in the past remained fluid or fuzzy, are now found to take on a more aggressive collective form, redirecting urban development debates on class lines (Banerjee-Guha 2004), supporting strict zoning laws against hawkers or waste pickers, taking an active part in elitist environmental movements having diverse “green” strategies for specific areas, and bringing in new hegemonic discourses for a sanitised/aesthetised city space. A bourgeois clientele is rapidly e ngulfing the urban governance terrain.

The contemporary urban restructuring in Mumbai is visibly becoming a part of the neoliberal reconstruction of the very notion of “urban” at different layers of the society. One of its primary manifestations is the process of legitimisation of a hegemonic concept of urban planning with commodification of virtual space at the level of image building, sharing a strong base in the commodification of real urban spaces. The resultant contest over the right to reconvert homogenised urban spaces into lived places and the planning endeavour to recommodify them happens to be the crux of the problem (Banerjee-Guha 2004). With increasing intensity of claims and counter claims over the contested city space that is significant towards the construction of hegemony (Lefebvre 1991), innumerable projects are being sanctioned by the government, recreating a t otally new generation of spaces in the future “slum free” city with heritage architecture, theme parks, info-tech parks, golf courses (in adjoining New Mumbai), sprawling commercial areas with permanent exhibition grounds, water-front development promenades and several other signature projects. Together they exude a modern, homogenous, one-dimensional vision of Mumbai, symbolise an extreme segmentation of communities of the underclass and thoroughly undermine the complexity of urban life of this multilayered interactive city where 68% of the population live in slums. The repressive and ideological state apparatus (Althusser 1971) is

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

found busy in combining disciplinary and authoritarian efforts (MacLeod 2002) to misappropriate urban space.

5 Underlying Logic, Polarisation and Resistance

In the above aggressive vision of redesigning Indian cities one can see embedded the concept of “new urbanism” that has its central element resting on the alleged shift of capital from the primary circuit of production to the secondary circuit of built environment (Harvey 1985; Sassen 1991), precisely a move towards financial manipulations as sources of profit. The consequences can be seen in the increasing focus on hyper forms and mega construction activities, increased speculation and expanded investment in land and real estate (the real estate sector in urban India is estimated to grow from $12 billion in 2005 to $90 billion in 2015), service sector, signature projects, mega cultural events and a reduced focus on the employment generating production process, affordable housing, and collective sharing of urban space and resources. A larger restructuring of the economic system and a resultant transformation of the urban form and the built environment constitute the basis of this new urbanism (Banerjee-Guha 2006).

For understanding the logic of remaking Indian cities, we need to look at four basic issues. The first is the changing position of the Indian economy with the introduction of the NEP and the role of the “urban” therein. In the Seventh Plan (1985-90), thrust was put on private investment in urban development that went against the previous policy of urban decentralisation. The N ational Commission on Urbanisation in 1985 helped reconfigure the concept of “urban” in India, heralded a major shift in the u rban policy by advocating concentration and centralisation (Kundu 1989) and activated a discourse in favour of private sector entry in the provision of urban services, cost subsidies, user charges, and most importantly, efficiency of service provision. The Commission’s Report was followed by the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act in 1992 that brought in political decentralisation, made the urban local bodies more “independent”, politically weaker and functionally restricted with reduced budgetary allocations and shrunken economic base. Their additional responsibility of raising funds from the capital market surfaced as a d ebatable issue (Banerjee-Guha 2002c) as it led to compromises on pro-poor projects. The urban growth rate of 1981-91 shows that there was already an increasing population concentration in the relatively larger cities. The 300 urban agglomerations with a population of 1,00,000 and above, accounted for more than 65% of the urban population in 1991 when the number of metropolitan cities rose to 23. Six from them (Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Bangalore) with a population of four to eight million were termed as “mega cities” (United Nations 1993). The earlier objective of strengthening the economic base of small and medium towns went backstage with renewed investment in large cities and metropolitan regions becoming official priority. No anti-monopoly measures (Bagchi 1987) were taken to curb the consequent inter-urban disparity or the stress on services and infra structure in large cities that the above process led to. Following the NEP, the Mega City Programme of the central government (Banerjee-Guha 2002c) was launched with an objective to

Economic Political Weekly

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

develop infrastructure of large cities (identified as GEM – generating economic momentum).

The above focus on large cities actually fitted the bill of a larger neoliberal world order in which economic changes had huge organisational and spatial implications for cities, characterised by a rescaling of their functions, activities and relations (Smith 2002). The first issue thus gets interconnected with the second, i e, the ascendancy of neoliberalism as a capitalist model of accumulation and its umbilical link with the entrepreneurial model of governance, thrust on economic regeneration and urban restructuring (Brenner and Theodore 2002b). Its authentic form, besides economic relations, includes a diversely patterned hegemonic structure. Tightening of control of the IFIs like World Bank, ADB, DFID, and the like on urban development in India with a renewed focus on mega cities is a part of this hegemony that rests on a complex ensemble of institutional, social and political relations and practices. Forging a link with a wider process of capital accumulation, the above global-local nexus in the contemporary urban development praxis under NURM succinctly symbolises a State-supported urban neoliberalism initiated as a market imperative. Its spatial logic is entangled with the need to restructure cities on all fronts: land use, infrastructure, governance and so on, to enable them to be efficient and marketable in the new geographical axis of global competition that pits cities against cities (Smith 2002) and facilitates accumulation.

Connected to the above two issues, comes the third – the materialisation of an entrepreneurial city that will represent the praxis of the neoliberal at the local scale. The contemporary Marxian interpretation (Harvey 1989) of the entrepreneurial city suggests that the present-day neoliberal urban political arena gets ever more influenced by powerful business interests through ppps. It is much less concerned with wealth distribution and welfare. Further, it is particularly interested in “signature projects” to enhance the image of the city and is driven by the political economy of “place” rather than “territory”. The current entrepreneurial regime in India is all set to revive the competitive position of urban economies through privatisation, de-municipalisation and re-commodification of social and economic life (Leitner 1990) at an unprecedentedly large scale.

The fourth issue represents the regional component of the global strategy of the post-Fordist economy operating through fragmentation and distribution of production and services, more importantly, financial services at wider spatial scales in the form of interrelated sub-processes. By this, several cities are assigned specific roles in the hierarchical system for making the capital accumulation process more efficient. It is not only the cities like New York, Chicago, London or Tokyo, in other words, the global financial command centres that are important for this system, but given the current operational strategy of finance capital, it is also the cities of the Global South, in Africa, Asia and Latin America that are considerably, if not equally, important for the functioning of the above regulatory and competitive regime. Here lies the significance of cities like Mumbai, the financial capital of India, geared to take up the mantle of the country’s future IFC, failing which serious implications are anticipated (HPEC 2007). “India’s financial services industry will not become e x port-oriented, nor derive significant IFS (international financial services) export revenues, if Mumbai fails to become an IFC. …For Mumbai to become an IFC, India’s policymakers and financial operators need to fully understand the nature of opportunities in the global IFS market, the activities undertaken in global financial centres (GFCs), and the gap in the capabilities that now exists between Mumbai and the established GFCs” (HPEC 2007). The imploring statement explicates the imperatives of urban r estructuring in countries like India and its signi ficance as a u niversal strategy. Associated with the entire logic is the r estructuring of the welfare state into a more vociferous, interventionist and market friendly structure, aiding and abetting the above processes.

There are several associated sub-processes that are significant. Firstly, urban elites, composed of assorted groups hailing from diverse entities like business, industry, media, or films, are increasingly and vociferously making their presence felt in the discourse on “urban” and getting integrated into the neoliberal urban planning manipulations. Their engagement goes beyond the city level and impacts the prevailing spatial relations of the peri-urban by drastically colonising the space out there, subsuming the former concept of city-hinterland symbiosis. The establishment of wealthy gated communities, farmhouses, and luxurious entertainment complexes (including sprawling film-sets), impinging on the livelihoods and economic activities in areas like Karjat or Kasara in the Mumbai metropolitan region is a part of the above process that has drastically increased in recent years. For example, the number of farmhouses (excluding educational establishments, residential projects and resorts) in the 48 gram panchayats in Karjat taluka has increased from 252 in 1997 to 1,247 in 2007. The above bourgeois urbanism (Keil 2002) is systematically aided by the second sub-process, i e, rescaling of the urban imagery. The previous role of cities as growth poles and diffusion centres is being replaced by the notion of a denationalised throughput node of a global economy. The newly restructured cities, emerging as “spaces of difference” (Banerjee-Guha 2002a) develop closer links with faraway places through global networks and gradually get delinked from the surrounding region, disrupting the organic and traditional s patial economic arrangements. Neoliberalism, in this case, acts as a mode of re-regulation of cities and their countryside. While the former experiences several contradictory articulations of growth and decline, the periphery, by the same process, loses its arable land, open spaces, and resource-based economic vitality to get distortedly connected with the former through a subcontracting chain of a transnational economic system.

Third is ecological modernisation, mentioned earlier, incorporating green strategies for both the city and its periphery that e ssentially facilitates place marketing in the neoliberal competitive framework and works towards a greater control of space by privileged social groups. Within city areas this entrepreneurial urban agenda risks deepening socio-economic polarities along social cleavages like class, caste, gender and occupation (MacLeod 2002). The ensuing urban forms manifest a disturbed and uneven patchwork of micro-spaces that Soja (2000) identifies as the splintering “post-metropolitan” landscape, an archipelago of enclosures that both voluntarily and involuntarily barricade individuals inscribing an entirely new urban geography.

A proper understanding and theorisation of the new urban form and neoliberal urbanism will remain superficial if it does not involve a discourse on the deepening polarisation and disarticulation that the process creates and people’s resistance that arises out of it. This is because cities under neoliberal imposition not only concentrate a disproportionate share of corporate capital to become key sites for their over-valorisation, but they also concentrate an increasingly disproportionate share of disadvantaged and marginalised people and become key sites for their continuing de-valorisation (Sassen 1999). I have discussed elsewhere (Banerjee-Guha 2006, 2007) how the State in new urbanism turns out to be increasingly repressive and, at the same time, a stronger abettor to capital accumulation by instituting deregulation norms and initiating change in use-values of the reconstructed space for the benefit of a narrower citizenry. In the contemporary situation of “neoliberal crackdown” that also creates a widespread erosion of public sympathy for the citizenship rights of the dispossessed (Mitchell 2001), the spatial “see-saw” (Harvey 1989) of valorisation and de-valorisation of the city space and the associated urban restructuring are leading to an increasing legitimisation of the dispossession of the poor, segregation of the city space and regulatory access to resources that are getting directly linked to the basic question of the “right to the city”.

The issue of local and global is found to intersect at this point whereby city space is converted into a globally designed space of economic regeneration and contradiction, marginalisation and flux. The political economy of the above displacement and marginalisation has been deftly analysed by Smith (1996, 1998), Wacquant (2000), Mitchell (2001) and others. The important question is whether it becomes a space for new politics embedded in the claims and counterclaims. Because even though the claims of the corporate sector and the rich pave the way for a repressive and revanchist urbanism (Smith 1996), as evident from the consequences of the redevelopment projects, at the other extreme there are claims made by the dispossessed, struggling for entitlement and alternatives. It remains to be seen whether the powerful contradictions inherent in the interaction between the two lead to a more progressive, radical and democratic use of the city space (Brenner and Theodore 2002b) or whether neoliberalism sits deeper. Although the patterns of the claims may reflect an overvalorised and powerful corporate centre occupying a smaller terrain, and a de-valorised periphery with a large number of people evidently marginalised, it goes without saying that this new politics of claims and related struggles of the dispossessed will go to form the most solid part of the neoliberal urbanism in the coming days. In several cities and towns in India, depending on the politics, culture and identity of the regions (Banerjee-Guha 2008), such struggles, organised by the dispossessed, are challenging the current displacement-based urban development. Theories and praxis of neoliberal urbanism and the enforcement of the regulatory regime in cities and their regions are getting intrinsically associated with such resistances and struggles, signifying a radical politics of contestation that would finally decide for whom the cities and their spaces are meant for.

may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22


Althusser, Louis (1971): “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” in L Althusser (ed.), Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (London: New Left Books), pp 136-70.

Amin, Ash (1994): Post-Fordism: A Reader (Oxford: Blackwell).

Bagchi, Amiya Kumar (1987): “Towards a Political Economy of Planning in India”, Contributions to Political Economy, No 3, pp 15-38.

Bandyopadhyay, Kinshuk and Suparna Mukhopadhyay (2009): “Ganga-r du kuley matha tulbey eyek dojon multiplex”, Anandabajar Patrika, Kolkata, 16 February.

Banerjee, Kishaloy and Ashis Mukherjee (2008): “Urban Neoliberalism, JNNURM Projects and Associated Impact on the Urban Poor in and Around Kolkata”, paper presented in the “Workshop on Urban Neoliberalism: Restructuring South Asian Cities”, 27-28 November, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

Banerjee-Guha, Swapna (1995): “Urban Development Process in Bombay: Planning for Whom?” in Sujata Patel and Alice Thorner (ed.), Bombay: A Metaphor for Modern India (New Delhi: Oxford University Press), pp 100-20.

  • (1997): Spatial Dynamics of International Capital (Hyderabad: Orient Longman).
  • (2002a): “Shifting Cities: Urban Restructuring in Mumbai”, Economic Political Weekly, Vol 37 (2), pp 121-28.
  • (2002b): “Critical Geographical Praxis: Globalisation and Socio-spatial Disorders”, Economic Political Weekly, Vol 37 ( 44 and 45), pp 4503-09.
  • (2002c): “Metropolitan Dominance and Regional Disparity in India: Observations from Relevant Planning Measures of Japan”, VRF Series No 358 (Tokyo: Institute of Developing Economies).
  • (2004): “Space, Society and Geography: Investigating the Crisis of Postmodern Urban Space” in Swapna Banerjee-Guha (ed.), Space, Society and Geography (New Delhi: Rawat Publishers), pp 61-82.
  • (2006): “Post-Modernism, Post-Fordism and Flexibilised Metropolis: Dialectical Images of Mumbai” in Saraswati Raju et al (ed.), Colonial and Post-Colonial Geographies of India (New Delhi: Sage), pp 205-22.
  • (2007): “Post-Fordist Urban Space of Mumbai: The Saga of Contemporary Restructuration” in Annapurna Shaw (ed.), Indian Cities in Transition (Hyderabad: Orient Longman).
  • (2008): “Space Relations of Capital and Significance of New Economic Enclaves: SEZs in India”, Economic Political Weekly, Vol 43(47), pp 51-60.
  • (2009): “Contradictions of Enclave Development in Contemporary Times”, Human Geography, Vol 2 (1).
  • Baran, Paul (1958): The Political Economy of Growth (New York: Monthly Review Press).

    Bharucha, N (2006): “Banks, Firms Are Top Mill-land Buyers”, The Times of India, Mumbai, 2 July.

    Bombay First (2003): Vision Mumbai: Transforming Mumbai into a World Class City, A Bombay First-McKinsey Report, Mumbai.

    Brenner Neil and Nik Theodore (2002a): “From the New Localism to the Spaces of Neoliberalism”, Antipode, Vol 34(3), pp 341-47.

    – (2002b): “Cities and the Geography of Actually Existing Neoliberalism”, Antipode, Vol 34(3), pp 349-79.

    Business World (2003): “Plan or Panacea?”, Business World, pp 44-48.

    CASUMM (2006): JNNURM: A Blueprint for Unconstitutional, Undemocratic Governance (Bangalore: Collaborative for the Advancement of the Study of Urbanism through Mixed Media).

    Chaware, Dilip (2004): “Mumbai-Pune Expressway Privatised”, The Times of India, Mumbai, 28 February.

    D’Monte, Darryl (2002): Ripping the Fabric: The Decline of Mumbai and Its Mills (New Delhi: Oxford University Press).

    D’Souza, D (2002): “Twilight City”, Review Article, Civil Society Information Exchange, Mumbai.

    Flusty, S (2001): “The Banality of Interdiction: Surveillance, Control and the Displacement of Diversity”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol 25, pp 658-64, UK.

    Gill, S (1995): “Globalisation, Market Civilisation and Disciplinary Neoliberalism”, Millennium, Vol 24, pp 399-423.

    Government of India (2008): HTML.S/Formal Approvals_Granted_Under_ SEZ_Act.pdf

    Harvey, David (1985): The Urbanisation of Capital (London: Basil Blackwell).

  • (1989): “From Managerialism to Entrepreneurialism: The Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism”, Geographiska Annaler, Series B 71B(1), pp 3-18.
  • (1990): The Condition of Post Modernity (London: Blackwell).
  • (2005): A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press).
  • Herman, E S and N Chomsky (1988): Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, (New York: Pantheon Books).

    HPEC (2007): Making Mumbai and International Financial Centre (New Delhi: Sage for Ministry of Finance, Government of India), High Powered E xpert Committee.

    Jamwal, Nidhi (2006): “Urban Myths”, Down to Earth, Vol 15(7), pp 26-34.

    Jessop, Bob (2002): “Liberalism, Neoliberalism and Urban Governance: A State Theoretical Perspective”, Antipode, Vol 34 (3), pp 452-72.

    Katz, Cindi (2001): “Hiding the Target: Social Reproduction in the Privatised Urban Environment” in C Minca (ed.), Post-modern Geography (London: Basil Blackwell), pp 93-112.

    Keil, Roger (2000): “Governance Restructuring in Los Angeles and Toronto: Amalgamation or Secession?”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Vol 24(4), pp 758-81.

    Keil, Roger (2002): ‘Common Sense Neoliberalism: Progressive Conservative Urbanism in Toronto, Canada”, Antipode, Vol 34 (3), pp 578-601.

    Kipfer, Stefan and Roger Keil (2002): “Toronto Inc? Planning the Competitive City in the New Toronto?”, Antipode, Vol 34(2), pp 227-64.

    Kundu, Amitabh (1989): “National Commission on Urbanisation, Issues and Non-Issues”, Economic Political Weekly, Vol 24 (2), pp 1185-88.

    Lefebvre, H (1991): The Production of Space, Translated by D Nicholson-Smith, (London: Blackwell).

    Leitner, H (1990): “Cities in Pursuit of Economic Growth: The Local State as Entrepreneur”, Political Geography, Vol 9, pp 146-70.

    MacLeod, Gordon (2002): “From Urban Entrepreneuralism to a ‘Revanchist City’: On the Spatial Injustices of Glasgow’s Renaissance”, Antipode, Vol 34 (3), pp 602-24.

    Mahadevia, Darshini (2006): “NURM and the Poor in Globalising Mega Cities”, Economic Political Weekly, Vol 41(31), pp 2299-3403.

    MMRDA (1995): “Draft Regional Plan for Mumbai Metropolitan Region, 1996-2011” (Mumbai: Maharashtra Metropolitan Regional Development Authority).

    Mitchell, Don (2001): “Postmodern Geographical Praxis: Postmodern Impulses and the War against Homeless People in the Post-justice City” in

    C Minca (ed.), Postmodern Geography: Theory and Praxis, pp 57-92.

    Mooney, G and M Danson (1997): “Beyond ‘Culture City’: Glasgow as a ‘Dual City’ ” in N Jewson and S MacGregor (ed.) Transforming Cities, pp 77-86, (UK: Routledge).

    Mukherjee, Ashis and Kishaloy Banerjee (2008): “Big Capital in Retail in West Bengal: Stories of Space Encroachment”, paper presented in the “Workshop on Urban Neoliberalism: Restructuring South Asian Cities”, 27-28 November (Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social Sciences).

    Mukherjee, Sanjukta (2008): “The Bangalore Brand: Uneven Geographies of India’s High-Tech Boom”, paper presented in the “Workshop on Urban Neoliberalism: Restructuring South Asian Cities”, 2728 November (Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social Sciences).

    Rajagopal, Arvind (2002): “Violence of Commodity Aesthetics”, Economic Political Weekly, Vol 37(1), pp 65-76.

    Ramachandraiah, C (2009): “Maytas, Hyderabad Metro and the Politics of Real Estate”, Economic Political Weekly, Vol 44(3), pp 36-40.

    Sassen, Saskia (1991): The Global City (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

    – (1999): “Globalisation and the Formation of New Claims” in R A Beauregard and S Body-Gendrot (ed.), The Urban Moment (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage), pp 99-118.

    Sharma, Kalpana (2000): Rediscovering Dharavi (New Delhi: Penguin Books).

    Singh, Mahendra (2006): “Urban Housing Bomb Ticking”, The Times of India, Mumbai, 25 November.

    Singh, Pradeep (2008): “City Development Plan and Urban Poor in Bhopal”, paper presented in the “Workshop on Urban Neoliberalism: Restructuring South Asian Cities”, 27-28 November (Mumbai: Tata Institute of Social Sciences).

    Smith, Neil (1996): The New Urban Frontier: Gentri fication and the Revanchist City (New York: Routledge).

  • (1998): “Giuliani Time: The Revanchist 1990s”, Social Text, Vol 57, pp 1-20.
  • (2002): “New Globalism, New Urbanism: Gentrification as Global Urban Strategy”, Antipode, Vol 34 (3), pp 427-50.
  • Soja, Edward (2000): Post-metropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions (Oxford: Blackwell).

    Swyngedouw, Erik, Frank Moulaert and Arantxa Rodriguez (2002): “Neoliberal Urbanisation in Europe”, Antipode, Vol 34 (3), pp 543-77.

    Tardanico, T and M Lungo (1995): “Local Dimensions of Global Restructuring: Changing Labour Market Contours in Urban Costa Rica”, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, pp 223-49.

    The Times of India (2009): “Tier III Cities See New Realty Boom”, The Times of India, 3 February.

    United Nations (1993): World Urbanisation Prospects (New York: UN).

    Varma, Umesh (2008): “Urban Poor and Housing-Reformed Out of the System: Experience of Hyderabad”, paper presented in the “Workshop on Urban Neoliberalism: Restructuring South Asian Cities”, 27-28 November (Mumbai: Tata I nstitute of Social Sciences).

    Wacquant, L (2000): “The Coming of the Penal State Is Not Inevitable”, Working Paper in Local Governance and Democracy, No 4 (Berkeley: University of California at Berkeley).

    For the Attention of Subscribers and Subscription Agencies Outside India

    It has come to our notice that a large number of subscriptions to the EPW from outside the country together with the subscription payments sent to supposed subscription agents in India have not been forwarded to us.

    We wish to point out to subscribers and subscription agencies outside India that all foreign subscriptions, t ogether with the appropriate remittances, must be forwarded to us and not to unauthorised third parties in India.

    We take no responsibility whatsoever in respect of subscriptions not registered with us.


    Economic Political Weekly

    may 30, 2009 vol xliv no 22

    To read the full text Login

    Get instant access

    New 3 Month Subscription
    to Digital Archives at

    ₹826for India

    $50for overseas users


    (-) Hide

    EPW looks forward to your comments. Please note that comments are moderated as per our comments policy. They may take some time to appear. A comment, if suitable, may be selected for publication in the Letters pages of EPW.

    Back to Top