About the Topic
This talk analyses land commodification in liberalising India by focusing on the 2013 land acquisition act – the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (LARRA). It specifically looks at the LARRA mandate that, in the interest of food security, irrigated multi-cropped land be acquired only as a “demonstrable last resort.” The targeting of ‘dry’ or ‘waste’ land for urban and infrastructural expansion rearranges land-based social relations in the Indian countryside.
The talk asks (and answers) two questions:
First, how were these geographies of fertile and waste land produced in the first place? Using the case of western Maharashtra, the speaker argues that there is nothing natural about these land categories. She shows how the biased routing of irrigation canals during the previous era of agricultural modernisation created an uneven geography of fertile and waste land, onto which the new LARRA is being accreted.
Second, what are the distributional implications of acquiring waste land for urban expansion? Through a long process of socio-spatial segregation, the most fertile lands in the countryside were appropriated by the dominant castes, and the waste lands were relegated to marginalised Dalits and Adivasis. Depending on their location and ownership rights, the new commodification of waste lands has varying effects on Adivasi owners and occupants, which she will illustrate using the case study of the Khed Special Economic Zone in western Maharashtra. She situates the 2013 LARRA, and its revaluation of waste land, within Karl Polanyi’s concept of the “double movement” and argues that the new market relations in land are being met with counter-movements, and this politics of commodification/decommodification plays itself out in the ongoing LARRA debates.
About the Speaker
Dr Sai Balakrishnan is an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design. She has also worked as an urban planner in the United States, India, and the United Arab Emirates, as a consultant to the UN-HABITAT in Nairobi, Kenya, and has served as a Research Fellow at the Land Governance Laboratory (LGLab), a Cambridge-based not-for-profit organisation which studies and disseminates tools for inclusive land resource allocation in rapidly urbanising countries. Her work has been published in Pacific Affairs, EPW, and in edited book chapters. Her book, titled "Shareholder Cities: Agrarian to Urban Land Transformations along Economic Corridors in Liberalizing India" is forthcoming from University of Pennsylvania Press.
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This is the twelfth in a series of talks organised by CPR Land Rights Initiative to showcase perspectives on land rights issues by diverse stakeholders, including academics from various disciplinary backgrounds, civil society organisations, journalists, grassroots workers, and policymakers.