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

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Recent Perspectives on Urbanisation

Since the early 19th century, Ahmedabad has been at the forefront of urban development and redevelopment. The 11 books reviewed in this paper, explain and argue, often passionately, the significance of the city’s transformations. Six books are academically focused; three are journalistic, anecdotal, personal, and discursive; three deal with histories ranging from 50 to 200 years; four cover more recent events, of which two discuss urban renewal through riverfront restoration; and two cover the communal violence of 2002 and its aftermath. Ahmedabad remains a world city, a world heritage city, and a “shock city” of constant change in response to evolving challenges. Collectively, these works explore issues of urban transformation that are of relevance throughout India.

Mission Impossible

In the wake of the global enthusiasm for smart cities, the central government launched the ambitious Smart Cities Mission in 2015. Based on a detailed analysis of proposals of the top 60 cities, the mission is located within the larger urban reform process initiated in the 1990s. An attempt has been made to define smart cities to understand how they envisage questions of urban transformations, inclusion and democracy. The proposals reveal an excessive reliance on consultants, lack of effective participation, a common set of interventions that are accepted as “smart solutions,” and a shift towards greater control of urban local bodies by state governments.

Predicting the Future of Census Towns

The 2011 Census highlighted the enormous growth of census towns, which contributed more than one-third of the urban growth during 2001–11. Since the rural–urban identification process in India is ex ante , using past census data, the number of CTs that will be identified in 2019 for the 2021 Census are estimated. The present study finds that the importance of CTs will be maintained in the urban structure, and a significant share of urban population will continue to grow beyond municipal limits. The influence of large towns on the growth of CTs will be persistent in the future, but a more localised form of urbanisation is also evident where the effect of agglomeration is less. Such a pattern may be stable because these places are relatively more prosperous than their rural counterparts.

Negotiating Street Space Differently

An ethnographic study of Muslims in Hyderabad builds on two strands of research findings: the relative backwardness of Muslims on various social indices; and the confinement of Muslim communities into secluded, insular enclaves/neighbourhoods with minimal civic amenities. The multitude of ways in which young Muslim men in a predominantly Muslim neighbourhood, with little to no formal secular schooling, and hailing from the lower/working class, navigate the street space is examined, to reveal how street space is used as an avenue for informal alternative learning by participating in communities of practice.

Roads to New Urban Futures

The limited-access road infrastructure that state governments facilitated in peri-urban Kolkata and Hyderabad, post liberalisation, have been examined. These roads reveal the state’s flexible territorialisation strategies in peri-urban areas, and highlight state guarantees in land via infrastructure. These projects have been examined as strategies of delineation that deviated from practices of expanding urban limits via extension of jurisdictional boundaries; as state guarantees into peri-urban real estate markets, associated with new governance modalities, predicated on land; and as inter-scalar strategies, which legitimised state governments intervening at the city-level, within a context of competitive dynamics of economic and political regionalism.

Sensitivity of Traffic Demand to Fare Rationalisation

The Airport Metro Express Line and the implications of rationalisation of the price on its traffic and revenue are examined. The amel was incurring huge operational losses when the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation took over its operations, and was faced with the challenge of reviving it and making it operationally viable. The role played by price rationalisation to enhance capacity utilisation and revenue, which contributed to improving the amel’s “operating ratio,” is analysed. The strategy worked, and by April 2016 the amel was able to break even. This is an example of how a well-thought-out pricing strategy could improve the viability of a public utility.

From Intermittent to Continuous Water Supply

Employing a matched cohort research design, eight wards with intermittent water supply are compared to eight wards upgraded to continuous (24 x 7) supply in a demonstration project in Hubli–Dharwad, Karnataka, with respect to tap water quality, child health, water storage practices, and coping costs across socio-economic strata. Water consumption and waste in the intermittent zones, and the potential for scale-up of continuous supply to the entire city, are estimated. It was found that the 24 x 7 project improved water quality, did not improve overall child health, but did reduce serious waterborne illnesses in the lowest-income strata, reduced the costs of waiting, increased monthly water bills, and potentially reduced water security for some of the poorest households.

Partitioned Urbanity

The partition of British India precipitated a set of instruments of governance that shaped occupations, land-use patterns, and forms of citizenship in urban hinterlands. This process is explored through an ethnographic and archival study of a village in Kolkata’s urban periphery, populated by an oppressed caste community called Namasudras, who had suffered repeated displacements. Namasudra refugee labour was crucial in the making of Kolkata’s suburban infrastructure, prompted by a process of state-led “deagrarianisation” and inter-community politico–economic competition that also displaced the local Muslim peasantry.

Urban Transformations in Khora Village, NCR

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

Seeing Mumbai through Its Hinterland

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

Receding Rurality, Booming Periphery

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

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