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

Review of Urban AffairsSubscribe to Review of Urban Affairs

Urban Jungles

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

Migration, Caste and Marginalised Sections

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

Urban Planning and Violence

This paper argues that exclusion and violence are imprinted on the social and spatial fabric of cities and neighbourhoods, and that social and political divides are often manifest in the control and policing of public space. Urban violence has many drivers and manifestations. However, the challenge is how to retrofit cities once violence takes hold, and to examine whether urban planning has a role in recovery. Can urban planning breed a new transparency and confidence that breaks embedded exclusionary urban management practices, and create new spaces of engagement, or is urban planning a root cause of the problems?

Colonising the Slum

Significant continuities and critical shifts in the forms, intensity, sources and instruments of violence have taken place since the 1990s when a number of changes were brought about in land markets of Mumbai. This paper views the impact of these shifts and the violence/s embedded therein along the state–market axis. Intense everyday violence enhances insecurity among residents, women and young girls in particular in highly complex ways. However, far from being passive victims of this violence/s they are engaged in highly creative struggles to confront the multi-institutional injustices experienced by them.

The Violence of Worlding

Over the last two decades, the state-led production of space, as part of worlding cities, has introduced new structural violences into the lives of poor groups in Durban, Mumbai and Rio de Janeiro, and has met with resistance. Three main mechanisms have been adopted to produce space—infrastructure and mega-projects, redevelopment, and creating exception regimes for “slums.” The nature of the state that enacts structural violence through worlding processes is simultaneously “strong” and “weak.” It is strong in its bid to open up new spaces for capital accumulation that integrate specific economic circuits, classes and groups “globally,” while weak in its responsibility to protect and strengthen the life chances and claims of poor groups/spaces.

Ecology vs Housing and the Land Rights Movement in Guwahati

Selective state interventions to mitigate natural disasters such as floods, the compulsions under which the urban poor inhabit ecologically marginal lands and in the case of Guwahati, the “encroachments” on wetlands and hills, have set the stage for conflict about housing rights, especially for those without legal land tenure. The “encroachments” of the poor are delegitimised and they become victims of eviction drives while encroachments by the state and the middle- and high-income classes on ecologically vulnerable areas are legitimised. In Guwahati, this has led to a cycle of violence and counter-violence. This paper sets this sequence of events against the historically contested land rights issue in a city with limited habitable land due to its natural ecology.

Water and Conflict in Bombay Hotel, Ahmedabad

The causes, conditions and consequences of poor water access in Bombay Hotel locality, a predominantly Muslim informal settlement located in Ahmedabad’s southern periphery, are studied through the lens of urban violence and conflict. This is done by tracing the dynamics of urban planning and governance that have produced two interlinked types of infrastructural violence in the locality—municipal water denial and violent articulations of infrastructure by informal water providers—and the experiences of everyday conflict and violence that emerge in residents’ lives as a consequence. How conflicts and violence shape residents’ attempts to negotiate and attain better water access are also discussed.

Resistance and Its Limits

Lyari, one of the oldest neighbourhoods of Karachi, has been the site of ongoing violence for most of the past two decades. This paper explores the impacts of the ongoing conflict involving criminal gangs, political parties and state security forces. Residents have adopted tactics and strategies ranging from negotiation to active resistance in response to the varied forms of everyday violence. Specifically focusing on street protests between 2012 and 2014, it evaluates the possibilities and limitations of protest in the context of urban violence. More broadly, it argues that studies of urban violence need to move away from viewing the urban poor as exclusively clientelistic or insurgent. It argues that acts of resistance in the form of protest are constrained, determined by, and productive of particular configurations of power.

Greenfield Development as Tabula Rasa

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

The Politics of Urban Mega-projects in India

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

Making Sense of Place in Rajarhat New Town

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

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