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.

The New Kashmiri Woman

Influenced by the leftist ideals of the Naya Kashmir manifesto, the post-partition state governments in Kashmir sought to empower its women. Scholarly work on this period covers how it was a particularly liberating moment for Kashmir’s women. Using an autobiography and oral history, the existing scholarship on the meanings of the “Naya Kashmir” moment for Kashmir’s women is critiqued. Even while Kashmiri women were able to benefit from a number of economic and educational opportunities, we must be cognizant of the ways in which the state became the purveyor of patriarchy. One of the shortcomings of this period of state-sponsored feminism was that no indigenous, grass-roots women’s movement emerged in Kashmir, given that those working on women’s issues in Kashmir were exclusively dependent on the state, which was becoming deeply contested and politicised.

The Intimate World of Vyestoan

Through ethnographic vignettes and auto-ethnographic fragments of women’s intimate worlds in Kashmir, women’s congregations, female alliances, friendships, embodied practices, and everyday memory projects are examined, arguing that these constitute an alternate affect and episteme in Kashmir. The concept of vyestoan is introduced as a critical, affective female alliance and companionship of resistance hinged on the notion of witnessing, in life, death, and beyond. This critical female alliance, against several interlocked forms of domination, is proposed as a useful term, rather than the notion of “sisterhood” in feminist scholarship, to understand intersectionality and criticality particularly in the context of Kashmir.

Jinn, Floods, and Resistant Ecological Imaginaries in Kashmir

How Kashmiri women experience and narrate questions of resource sovereignty and dispossession within the context of Kashmir’s long-drawn-out military occupation, and India’s investments in mega hydroelectric dams on Kashmir’s rivers have been discussed. The devastating floods in 2014 led Kashmiris to increasingly challenge perceptions of nature or natural disasters as apolitical. Dams are an integral part of border-making processes, and gender, space, and borders are continually co-produced through militarised infrastructures. Women’s resistant imaginaries, which combine political and ecological metaphors, and rely on conceptions of jinn and other non-human agency, offer a way to rethink Kashmir beyond its securitised geographies.

Gendered Politics of Funerary Processions

On 8 July 2016, Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani was killed by the Indian army, setting in motion unprecedented funerary processional grieving. Using accounts of funerals of militants and civilians, gendered funerary processions and the transformation of gendered cultures of grieving in Kashmir have been analysed. It is argued that women’s participation in the militant and civilian funerary processions is a feminist political formulation in the Kashmiri context. This is understood through a review of the politics of funeral attendance and two specific actions that women undertake: publicising grief by bringing the private out into the contested public realm, thus outdoing religious law, and resisting the state’s sovereignty by grieving for lives that the state deems “non-grievable.”

Dimensions of Sexual Violence and Patriarchy in a Militarised State

Enforced disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture, and sexual violence have characterised Indian military operations in Kashmir. Of these, sexual violence has been used widely to “break” individuals and communities, and as a tool for punishing resistance against violence by the Indian state. The discourse around sexual violence, however, has always revolved around women with very little focus on men and transgender persons, given the patriarchal understanding of sexual violence and power relations. A critical part of this discussion is also looking at how the patriarchal structure of the society acts as a facilitator for the effective use of sexual violence as a tool against the people. The sexual violence that is propagated and implemented by a masculine patriarchal state can be resisted well with a deeper understanding of gender dynamics.

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