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Seeking Middle GroundLand, Markets, and Public Policy$
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Sanjoy Chakravorty and Amitendu Palit

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780199495450

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199495450.001.0001

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Locational Politics of Land

Locational Politics of Land

Antagonistic Cooperation in Western Maharashtra

(p.158) 8 Locational Politics of Land
Seeking Middle Ground

Sai Balakrishnan

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the locational aspect of the new wave of Special Economic Zones (SEZs) in post-liberalization India. It argues that unlike the earlier Nehruvian era steel towns which aimed at locating new towns in economically backward regions of the country, the promoters of the new SEZs, and more broadly post-liberalization urban enclaved developments, are attracted to former agrarian regions that benefited from prior pre-liberalization investment. These regions have prior market linkages that are desirable to the new private capital; the agricultural land in these regions is also owned by organized agrarian constituencies belonging to regional dominant castes. As policymakers, search for new decentralized and market-oriented means for the transfer of land from agrarian constituencies to urban promoters and developers, the re-allocation of property control is erupting into volatile land-based social conflicts. By focusing on the case of the Khed SEZ in the Pune district in western Maharashtra, this chapter traces a form of ‘antagonistic cooperation’ where historically adversarial groups—firms and agrarian landowners, agrarian propertied classes and Adivasi labourers—come together briefly for a new experiment in land assembly for an SEZ. As productive agricultural land is transformed into new urban enclaves, the Khed Adivasis experience Janus-faced social change, where the locational politics of the new SEZ both generates a new politics of recognition but also exposes them to the new uncertainties of a market economy.

Keywords:   land commodification, land-use change, Special Economic Zones, caste/class transformation

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